Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trivial observation

People travel a lot in 19th century novels.


almostinfamous said...

on a similar note, been doing some reading n researching on the history of photography. photography as a technique of fixing images onto a surface was publicly announced on aug 19, 1839 - and according to a book i'm currently reading by chris pinney, the process reached colonial india by october and was widely popular(by 19th century standards) from early 1840 onwards. i mean, we say it's a small world now, but i can't help but think that it was a bit smaller just a couple of generations back.

davidly said...

Yeah! It's great, idn't it? I love 19th and pre-war 20th century work. Of course, it's because the act of traveling took longer then, yet it never ceases to amaze me how much traveling they get done in a lifetime. And reading that stuff is traveling.

Semi-related: look at my "vom Twat" Twitter parody in my right column. That could work well for your one-liners.

High Arka said...

Possibly because 19th century novels tend to be written about the destitute, driven into travel in the ultimate interests of poverty-at-home-murder-abroad colonialism, or about the ball-going socialites, who like attending tea parties against different backdrops?

Ethan said...

Colonialism's certainly got to do with it (in Frankenstein, one of the characters--from Geneva--wants to go to India, so he snaps up a chance to travel to England, naturally).

Between almostinfamous pointing out that phenomena traveled from place to place back then almost as rapidly as now, and Davidly mentioning how much longer it took to travel now, you get kind of the way all this stuff feels when you're reading the books. They convey both the monotony of travel, travel, travel, and the flashy novelty of exciting! new! places! simultaneously.

Another aspect of it I think is the Romantic obsession with capital-N Nature; for Shelley, one encounter between Frankenstein and the monster has to happen in these continental mountains, while another has to happen on these Scottish islands, etc., or the symbolism is just all wrong.

Ethan said...

(PS Davidly, I might have to steal that idea. We'll see.)

thebaronette said...

david toop has a book on exotica and talks at length about colonialism and imperialism within 19th century creative expression. (conrad, kipling, the impressionist composers...)

one thought he has on exotica, and i think its a very convincing perspective, is that it paradoxically aims to release colonized lands from the impact of colonialism while still making it available to the colonizers - to "restore" the land and its people to a former glory as envisioned by non-natives with, let's say, a rather suspect anthropological understanding.

i'm pretty ambivalent about the creation of such worlds. the creator can make a really enveloping and fascinating ambience. of course, it also can have some pretty awful cultural ramifications.

as ethan's been telling me, frankenstein is something of a genesis for a huge range of literary styles and techniques. after reading toop and thinking about it in relation to science fiction, like shelley's work, i'm starting to think that the origins of exotica and science fiction may be more related than i once thought.

(and just to make it clear, i'm not equating mary shelley's works with those of kipling or conrad. hell no. i think her exotica, if there is evidence of any, comes from a very different perspective within a different culture. i'm only suggesting the impetus for "escape" might be rooted in similar thoughts...)