Learning to Observe: The Art of Travel in Continental Journeys and Exotic Excursions in the Early Modern Period

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM
Mississippi Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland, Galway
One of the barriers to understanding early modern ethnography of ‘exotic’ peoples has been the traditional separation between the study of travel within Europe and travel beyond Europe. In this paper I suggest that the conventions of observation and representation established for travellers engaged in Continental journeys of education had a significant impact on some of the leading texts of travel produced about more distant locations. The preoccupation of Continental travel with the moral evaluation of customs and manners, the need to distinguish civil from uncivil practices, and to incorporate those customs worthy of imitation, constituted a powerful norm imposed on young men journeying across Europe, who were subject to a variety of protocols in order to make knowledge ‘useful’. Among the most interesting examples of this transfer of assumptions and travel technique are seventeenth-century figures such as François Bernier, Pietro della Valle, Jean Thévenot, Adam Olearius, and J.A. von Mandelslo. But I would argue that this tradition is set in place in the sixteenth century, as we can see in naturalists like Leonard Rauwolf and Pierre Belon, the Ottoman traveller Nicolas de Nicolay, or authorities such as André Thevet and Richard Hakluyt. This connection has a bearing not only methods of observation but also the rhetorical conventions of the travel account, and the distinctive moral voice routinely adopted by authors of travel narratives.
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