American Travel-writing and the invention of 'Story-book England'

Watson, Nicola (2013). American Travel-writing and the invention of 'Story-book England'. In: de Sousa, Alcinda Pinheiro; Flora, Luísa and Malafaia, Teresa eds. From Brazil to Macao: Travel Writing and Diasporic Spaces. Lisbon: University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies, pp. 57–74.


This paper enquires into the experiences of American literary tourists to nineteenth-century Britain, as evidenced in early to mid-century published travel memoirs by authors such as Washington Irving, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Grace Greenwood and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and in a later fictive account supplied by Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did Next (1886). It describes and explains the emergence of a conventional itinerary of literary places and details a set of possible American stances ranging from the sentimental to the ironic to the elaborately indifferent. I argue that American travel-writers were centrally influential in the construction of British literary geography, and that this construction was central to the making of American cultural identity. Their writings seek to condense a usable literary version of Britain as a repository of, and pre-history to, American literature.

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