Thursday, September 21, 2017

Add Methods; Mix Well: An Analysis of the Qualitative Research Methods of Katrina M. Powell’s “Rhetorics of Displacement: Constructing Identities in Forced Relocations”

I study travel writing. And while my work has focused primarily on texts and archival material, I became enthralled by Powell’s research because of how she gracefully triangulates material from nonfiction, fiction and interviews to formulate her hypothesis about travelling bodies and identities. I was inspired at her choice to move beyond textual analysis and understand the themes of travel and displacement as they affect marginalized people in very real, non-imaginary, ways. While I have focused my previous and current research on how nineteenth century women were able to overcome oppressive societies and norms through their travel diaries, I have wondered how my work with texts written by people “from long ago” would have significant and practical impact beyond a line on my curriculum vitae and my own enjoyment. Since beginning my PhD program, I have had to ask myself how my work within Literature & Cultural Studies will be relevant to my students, communities and institutions. I think Powell’s findings are an example of what I would like my work to do and how I may consider approaching my beloved travel writing studies for major projects.  
Katrina M. Powell’s “Rhetorics of Displacement: Constructing Identities in Forced Relocations,” published in College English, aims to explore how “the displaced can be feared” (299) and how an identity is affected when the body is “forcefully displaced” (300). Her purpose in this multi-layered study is to broaden her audience’s understanding of the “rhetorics of displacement” to cleverly uncover meaningful relationships between the rhetoric of those in power and those who have been displaced (300). Her work is ambitious in that she suggests more informed and contextual (leading to more ethical and responsible) reading and writing of displacement narratives. Powell takes a variety of power positions into account for her discussion: “[R]hetorics of displacement are deeply embedded in the resistances to the subjectivities inscribed for the displaced by those who have power over them, including tyrannical governments, United Nations (UN) aid workers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrators, and legislators” (302). Powell asserts that because of these types of “resistances”, displacement narratives often follow along preconceived, formulated lines; basically, there is a metanarrative that those in power and those displaced utilize to tell their local stories and rationalize their choices. Ultimately, Powell argues that “[o]nce one has moved physically from one place to another, the act of displacement, the act of reconceptualizing the hybrid identity, continues in an active way and does not end. What's important about this is that one identity does not take over another; rather, a hybrid identity results that incorporates the old and the new.” (301).
Powell discusses the rhetoric of and about the travelling, displaced body in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, (a documentary film on the displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) and Dave Egger’s fiction piece, What is the What (a novel based on the travel story of a displaced Sudanese boy) to contextualize her findings- archival material, interviews and narratives- from and about displaced individuals in the now infamous eminent domain case in the formation of the Shenandoah National Park during the 1930s. According to Powell, both Lee and Eggers’ works demonstrate how “[d]isplacement narratives written about the displaced often go through a process of othering whereby they blame the victim,” while “ the rhetorical strategies used by the displaced to speak back to those narratives include nostalgia, a particular sense of home, belonging, citizenry, and the right of return” (302). Her work with the people and archives of the Shenandoah National Park eminent domain case, and in particular the life of Mary Frances Corbin Donald, exposes how a law-imposed displacement of people is able to silence the voices of the victims affected and ultimately eliminate their rhetoric of “the right to return” (302).
Powell is certainly engaged in a “mixed methods” approach, and I believe she takes this emerging path because of what Banks would refer to as the “funk” of her research, or what  Restaino and Maute would refer to as her “surrender as method”. Powell originally began her research gathering archival and narrative data and interviews as she worked with a documentary filmmaker, Richard Knox Robinson, who was researching the “Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographer Arthur Rothstein, who had been sent to Virginia in 1935 to photograph families being displaced during the founding of Shenandoah National Park” (312-3). This led her to find  and interview a survivor / victim of the eminent domain case, Mary Frances Corbin Donald, and this interview ultimately allowed her to develop her thesis of the displacement counterstory.
Powell then develops a case study of Mary Frances Corbin Donald, a woman who because of the eminent domain case and her subsequent poverty was taken from her home in the mountains of Virginia when she was eleven years old, displaced to the Lynchburg Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded because her family was considered mentally unstable and thereupon sterilized. She was ultimately released as an adult, but her story, as Powell posits, had long been ignored, silenced and consequently forgotten because of the law-imposed displacement of her body and identity.  
I appreciate how, even though Powell’s research is layered and thorough, she employs self-reflexivity, or when “the writer is conscious of the biases, values, and experiences that he or she brings to a qualitative research study” (Creswell 293). Powell admits how her research with filmmaker Robinson raised “concern[s] with highlighting the staged nature of documentary film, photography, and storytelling. Both of us [Powell and Robinson] were aware of the implications of retelling and reappropriating Mary Frances's stories, and throughout the process of interviewing, filming, editing, and screening, we tried to remain ‘mindful of how rhetorical acts of witnessing may function as new forms of international tourism and appropriation’ [Hesford, "Documenting Violations" 121]” (Powell 313). Additionally, Powell comments how she and her co-researcher were “explicitly conscious of issues of form, of the way that documentary is constructed, of the obtrusiveness of the camera, and of the role of the filmmaker and the interviewer in constructing a certain kind of displacement narrative” (315). In other words, she is mindful that her representation of this counterstory will not be clean from the researcher’s fingerprints in developing new, perhaps undesired, unhelpful, or even more complex marginalized identities for her participants, living or dead.
Suffice it to say, Powell’s interpretive framework for this study is dynamic. Because of her multiple methods, I understand that she is “look[ing] for the complexity of views rather than narrowing the meanings into a few categories or ideas” (Creswell 24), as a social constructivist. Additionally, her transformative framework is illustrated through her perpetual awareness of her own power as a researcher and author and her curiosity about displacement narratives -- “Who wants these narratives, and how are they used?” (317) --  causes me to consider that she is acutely aware that “knowledge is not neutral and reflects the power and social relationships within society, and thus the purpose of knowledge construction is to aid people to improve society,” (Creswell 25-6). Moreover, she seems to understand that her research is “collaborative because it is inquiry completed ‘with’ others rather than ‘on’ or ‘to’ others,” (Creswell 26) especially seen in her sensitivity working with Corbin Donald (Addison 140). At the same time, Powell seeks to deconstruct the metanarrative of the the displaced, traveling body, and in doing so, exemplifies a postmodern perspective (Creswell 27) while simultaneously commenting heavily on the rhetoric of a female body erroneously labeled “disabled,” in the vein of disability theory (Dolmage and Lewiecki-Wilson).
Powell’s strength is in showing her research process as an emerging pathway; she develops the idea that her argument and data came about through related, yet disconnected, research she was collecting. She was open to the opportunity to interview Corbin Donald and be flexible to the ideas that developed counter to the accepted theories of her research focus. Her mixed methods approach match this particular study as she herself recognizes that this issue is highly complex, layered and runs contrary to what her audience may expect (Addison 138). I believe her triangulation of data and utilization of nonfiction, fiction, narrative, archive and interview allows her a valid place in this discussion about (simply put) stories, and if anything, her various methods demonstrate how stories are multi-dimensional, living, messy animals.  
While Powell makes note multiple times how she is aware and cautious of the messy nature of interviews and narratives, she fails to provide a more detailed account of the interview she has with Corbin Donald. Yet, I understand that this probably has much to do with Powell’s honorable amount of reciprocity by respecting Corbin Donald’s privacy and story, allowing Corbin Donald ownership of the details of her own narrative (Creswell 95; Journet 21).
Much like I was inspired by Cushman, I am moved and educated by Powell’s work to embrace the messiness of qualitative research. In speaking of her own research focus of the displaced traveler, I was reminded of the emerging nature of research methods: “Displacement is not an overtaking—that would suggest linear movement, a dialectic relationship among identities. Rather, displacement is a meandering path, a combination of many paths, paths not predetermined by place, person, or nation” (301). In other words, like surrender, displacement (in the most positive sense) may be a benefit in my approach to research, being aware of my research stance and frameworks, but all the while being open to the paths, approaches and methods available to me and my participants.

Works Cited
Addison, Joanne. "Researching Literacy as a Lived Experience." Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods and Methodologies.  edited by Eileen E. Schell and K.J. Rawson, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010. pp. 136-151.
Banks, A. (2015).  2015 CCCC Chair’s Address: Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby! Funk, Flight, Freedom. College Composition and Communication, vol. 67, no. 2, pp. 267-79. pdf.
Cushman, E. “The Rhetorician as an Agent of Social Change.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 47, no. 1, 1996, pp. 7-28. JSTOR, doi: 10.2307/358271
Creswell, John W. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 3rd ed., Sage, 2013.
Dolmage, Jay and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson. “Refiguring Rhetorica: Linking Feminst Rhetoric and Disability Studies.” Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods and Methodologies.  edited by Eileen E. Schell and K.J. Rawson, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010. pp. 23-38.
Grabill, Jeffery T. “Community-Based Research and the Importance of a Research Stance.” Writing Studies Research in Practice: Methods and Methodologies. edited by Lee Nickoson and Mary P. Sheridan, Southern UP, 2012. pp. 210-9.
Journet, Debra. “Narrative Turns in Writing Studies Research.” Writing Studies Research in Practice: Methods and Methodologies. edited by Lee Nickoson and Mary P. Sheridan, Southern UP, 2012. pp. 13-24.
Powell, Katrina M. “Rhetorics of Displacement: Constructing Identities in Forced Relocations.” College English, vol. 74, no. 4, 2012, pp. 299-324. JSTOR, doi: 129.113.205.108. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

Restaino, Jessica and Susan Lundy Maute. “Surrender as Method: Research, Writing, Rhetoric, Love.” Peitho Journal, vol. 18 no.1, 2015, pp. 72-95. pdf.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burke/ Identification & Persuasion

In A Rhetoric of Motives, Burke accessorizes classical rhetoric—which he associates with “persuasion”—in terms of a modern rhetoric whose chief concern is “identification”. Still, he is unable or unwilling to separate those associations because in the end, Burke is “consider[ing] the ways in which individuals are at odds with one another, or become identified with groups more or less at odds with one another” (Burke 22).
In order for Burke’s argument about identification to work, he relies on the existence of a unique, substantial self (21); in other words, humans are not all “the same” as one hegemonic group, and Burke posits that this separateness is something we strive to overcome. To add to this, our differences are hierarchical, which causes guilt and shame, which we also seek to overcome. Our uniqueness can be divisive and unifying in that at times we notice aspects of our uniqueness (attitudes, beliefs, materials possessions, experiences) in others, what Burke would label “consubstantiality” (21), or we also notice those same aspects of uniqueness clash with others’. For Burke, identification and division are two sides to the same coin: “[T]o begin with ‘identification’ is, by the same token, though roundabout, to confront the implications of division” (Burke 22). In other words, as we identify with one other person or group, we are simultaneously dissociating ourselves from another group. This simultaneity is pivotal, because for Burke, this is a rhetorical situation: “In pure identification there would be no strife. Likewise, there ' would be no strife in absolute separateness, since opponents can join battle only through a mediatory ground that makes their communication possible, thus providing the first condition necessary for their interchange of blows. But put identification and division ambiguously together, so that you cannot know for certain just where one ends and the other begins, and you have the characteristic invitation to rhetoric” (Burke 25). So, instead of a big moment of declaration about “who you are” that affirms your identity, the dailyness and mundane actions (26) that we partake in are really (re)affirmations of our consubstantiality, making our dailyness rhetorical.
But what does this have to do with persuasion? Well, our need to rid ourselves of the guilt of separation is a good starting point for those who wish to persuade us; after all, what is the goal of persuasion but identifying (or not) with certain groups? How we identify or disassociate with others is motivated by the speaker’s “use of stylistic identifications; his act of persuasion may be for the purpose of causing the audience to identify itself with the speaker's interests; and the speaker draws on identification of interests to establish rapport between himself and his audience” (Burke 46).


Works Cited

Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. U of California P, 1969.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

English 810, Paper 6 (or Packing for My own Scholarly Journey)

My decision to study travel writing was conflicted. As I finished my M.A. coursework, I read my first travel diary written by a woman traveling through Mexico in 1846. I was hooked. As a Literature student, I couldn't help but read her work with my lit/crit glasses on, and I read her journey as a beautiful mix of creativity, non-fiction and whispered truths in a time of patriarchal censorship and editing. While I searched her non-fiction work for traditional literary elements, I became interested in how the 19th century saw travel as a theme for their own tale.
When I selected that 1846 work on which to focus my M.A. thesis, my Chair, who has a PhD in Rhetoric, smiled and nodded excitedly: "You.... you are really stepping into a rhetorical discussion." I recoiled a bit. Rhetoric? No. I am a Literature person!
The divide between Rhetoric and Literature Studies was as clear and emboldened as possible, even as I graduated with an English M.A. I suddenly felt the need to make sense of my (shifting?) focus. I had no background in rhetoric or rhetorical theory. I was ill-prepared. Little did I know my professional career would soon be affected by that same uncertainty as well.
As I defended my thesis, I was confused about my scholarly identity- I used a literary lens to read non-fiction archival material; my Objects of Study and critical perspective didn't seem to match. In my spare time, as I watched Anthony Bourdain eat his way across the world, I analyzed his rhetoric using post-colonial and cultural lenses. But I also read poetry by Whitman and Dickinson, novels by Greene, and their imaginary travels provided the same theme that captivated me in my archival studies. Who was I, dammit?
I was so confused that I didn't take the hint from my Chair's gift of Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction.
Now, I am relieved to come across scholars like Marguerite Helmers and Tilar Mazzeo, who like me, focus on travel as a theme, and not genre, which I consider a benefit to this inclusive field. In addition to diaries, few travel writing scholars also study maps, charts, journals, letters, advertisements, and (surprising to most), fiction and poetry.
A quick look at Routledge’s research in Travel Writing Studies webpage (the leading publisher of travel writing studies) shows how significant feminist and postcolonial theory continues to be to the study of this genre for the past decade; notable works include Women, Travel Writing, and Truth and Travel Writing, Form, and Empire. The obvious effect that travel writing studies has on the academy is the varying historical, social and political perspectives divulged in, often, private travel diaries of people (works from / about females, workers or the non-elite/ non-military traveler) during times of great movement.  The archival of such travel writings allows students to “read against the grain of what they are now regularly taught to see” (Campbell) and rethink sources that shape knowledge (epistemology). Moreover, Pratt’s Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, a postcolonial study of travel writing, (re)introduced critical vocabulary such as: “contact zones” (7-8), “transculturation” (7), and “autoethnography” (9) in the early 1990s, placing valuable significance on the “other” in travel writing while simultaneously adding to debates on how English scholars “shape-re-member-[an alternative] rhetorical presence" (Glenn 8). With that in mind, both postcolonial and feminist frameworks allow travel writing to highlight themes of power, exploitation, “other” and control.

What is my Contribution to the Field?
I find that most scholarly work I read separates travel writing based on fiction and non-fiction, but I am interested in viewing travel writing inclusively, across sub-disciplines (non-fiction archival material, poetry, novels, etc) through a literary lens in order to show the relationship among self, travel and writing. Travel writing usually contains themes of conquest, subjectivity, and colonialism, so using a postcolonial critical lens is relevant, but a literary studies perspective would allow me to place works like travel diaries in a fresh context and explore the literary devices diarists creatively and purposely used to communicate, perhaps even their postcolonial messages. My past and current research has involved archival travel diaries (the edits and the second thoughts included)  in order to show that self-writing is a tool for perpetually creating and re-creating the self. Additionally, I find that I am most interested in travel diaries affected by the notion of Romantic self.

What do I need for my Scholarly Journey?
In addition to building my background in travel writing theory, my endeavors require a post-modern study of "self". Writing the Self by Peter Heehs has provided a rich and concise introduction to this area for me, as it examines the beginning of the English Romantic movement and its influence on self-writing. Writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and of course the esoteric Romantic, William Blake, helped shape what Western romanticism is all about: the individual, nature, the divine creation of imagination and the potential for greatness (genius or "God", really) in the common man. The poet was not only a creator, but to many like Keats, the poet was a creator of self. The possibilities were explosive because suddenly “human beings could change their natures, decide their values, determine their aims. This altered the whole idea of what constituted a self and radically changed the relationship between self and society” (Heehs 112).  

If Romantics saw themselves as self-creators, then the modern diary, as we know it (or even the concept of social media, for that matter), is a pretty Romantic notion. Margo Culley argues that diarists portray “not a self in any total sense, but a self which is to some degree a fiction, a construction” (12). Perhaps this is surprising to most, but as Francine Prose reveals, diarists like Anne Frank for example, often revise their work, revision that entails highly literary considerations, especially in the creation of the author as a character- a persona in the text. Culley's scholarship points out the role of the diary author as both creator and literary character in a hybrid of fiction and truth: “It is a paradox that the process whose frequent goal is to establish self-continuity involves at its heart a dislocation from the self, or a turning of subject into object. Even in some of the earliest American women’s diaries we can see this kind of ‘double consciousness,’ as the self stands apart to view the self” (Culley 10).
I value Culley and Prose's perspective because it is rare and insightful: diaries are literary constructs, not simply historical artifacts. Culley's work with diaries written by females, including travel accounts, prompts her to make the case that diarists do not write in a vacuum, and their writing is artfully crafted. While diaries, such as those written by women, are appealing to feminist historians and/ or postcolonial critics for their varying perspectives, I agree with Culley that dairies are also literature: "The process of selection and arrangement of detail in the text raises an array of concerns appropriately 'literary,' including questions of audience (real or implied), narrative, shape and structure, persona, voice, imagistic and thematic repetition, and what James Olney calls 'metaphors of self'" (10).
Additionally, Heehs asserts that in the 19th century, thinkers pondered on the fact that humans are able to construct a self for the masses, and still have a private self in which they are (perhaps) truly themselves. Those like Thomas Merton (Wisdom of the Desert, Zen and the Birds of Appetite) asserted that individuals already have a real self inside, but there is also a “false personality that is the creature of [their] own appetite for esteem” (Merton qtd. in Heehs 205).
When I consider travel diaries, which have been my primary objects of study, I often see the public and private self in terms of inner and outer journey. In "Women Travel Writers and the Question of Veracity," scholar Maureen Mulligan explains how "emotional or spiritual journeys" allow more “literary” conventions such as poetry, suspense, characterization, symbolism, for example; so while the truth of what happened is questionable, the writing will point out what Mulligan refers to as “inner truth,” or as I like to see it the “inner journey” (171) of the writer. Sometimes that “inner journey” requires some help that comes in the form of exaggerations or outright lies.

Lavinia Spalding, editor of The Best Women's Travel Writing, describes the power of travel tales, but I find most people pigeonhole travel writing in this manner. The possibilities are more expansive than this.

If diaries are literary constructs and not simply historical, archival material, Culley asks “How, then, do we read a diary, whether an original manuscript or an edited version, with an awareness that it is a verbal construct with important relationships to other forms of literature such as… fiction? “ (16). I am excited about this question because it is overlooked, especially given the often used postcolonial lens with diary work, and even more so with travel diaries.

Roadblocks and Detours: How will I Navigate through the Major Debates?

Personally, this semester's discussions and readings have emphasized the uncertain future of English Studies, namely the sub-disciplines of Literature and Cultural Studies. As English departments dissolve and sub-disciplines create their own academic and department-based identities, I see there is a hard push for Literature to have serviceable meaning to the University and its surrounding communities because money/ power is what matters to higher education administration (Banks). At my own non-English department campus, I work in a Writing Studies department, and I see first-hand how Rhet/ Comp seems to have the angle on marketability. Literature is on life support.
Travel Writing works that Spalding advertises in the above video certainly have meaning- Facebook likes and shares, retweets, study abroad and service learning courses and an impact that will surely inspire readers to write more. There’s nothing bad about that, but my interests in travel writing are somewhat hard to categorize neatly this way.
If I want to study/ teach imaginary travel in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, will that draw money students into my classroom? Probably not. But if I teach a Travel Writing course in a Writing Studies Department as an elective for Rhetoric & Composition Studies B.A., then now I am onto something (and I can certainly insert Emily on my syllabus readings). In other words, I can focus my teaching on the rhetoric of travel or travel writing discourse and be able to cast a wide net, encompassing literature, non-fiction, poetry and self-writing. I guess I am learning how marketable my sub-discipline will be in higher education, and while that is a depressing road to go down, it is also realistic and helps me strategize how to best market myself and my courses. Yet I still find myself wondering about students like me, those who see themselves neither "here" nor "there", but a hybrid of English Studies. I have benefited, in my own work, from inclusivity, and I can now confidently say that I am an scholar of English Studies who focuses on themes of travel, and people can take that as they want (at least until I start my post-PhD job search 😉) because like Banks, I wonder: "while decisions to separate [English sub-disciplines] are valid and worth considering, I believe it's also worth considering more fully the important work we do by staying together" (104).

Works Cited
Banks, William P. "Embracing the Conflicts: An Argument Against Separating Writing Studies from English Studies". Transforming English Studies: New Voices in an Emerging Genre." Ed. Claire Oostergaard, Jeff Ludwig & Jim Nugent. Lafayette: Parlor, 2009. pp. 100-21.
Culley, Margo. Introduction. A Day at a Time: The Diary Literature of American Women from 1764 to the Present, edited by Culley. The Feminist Press, 1985. pp. 3-26.
Glenn, Cheryl. Rhetoric Retold : Regendering The Tradition From Antiquity Through The Renaissance. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
Heehs, Peter. Writing the Self: Diaries, Memoirs, and the History of the Self. New York: Bloomsbury P, 2013.
Helmers, Marguerite and Tilar J. Mazzeo. "Unraveling the Traveling Self." The Traveling and Writing Self." Ed. Helmers & Mazzeo. Newcastle: Cambridge, 2007. pp.1-18.
Mulligan, Maureen. "Women Travel Writers and the Question of Veracity." Women, Travel Writing, and Truth. Ed. Clare Broome Saunders. New York: Routledge, 2012. pp. 171-184.
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. 2nd ed., Routledge, 1992.
Prose, Francine. "Reclaiming Anne Frank's Diary as Literature." YouTube, uploaded by Big Think, 23 Apr. 2012, https://youtu.be/t0VYWndMWTs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

English 810, Paper 5: Objects of Study


I think when colleagues or friends hear that I study and write about travel writing, they think of those articles in airline magazines tucked into the pockets of plane seats. You know, the luxuriously reported adventures: “Best Places to Eat like a Local in Dubai” or “Greece’s Secret AgroTourism: How to Say ‘Opa!’”
Nope. Not me. And even if I was interested in that kind of travel writing it would most likely be through a postcolonial lens of Marxist rhetoric.
My focus for the last few years has been 19th century American travel diaries, so not exactly Elizabeth Gilbert, and that’s fine with me. Diarists such as Susan Shelby Magoffin, Isabella Lucy Bird and Amelia Stewart Knight produced the kinds of works I study in order to understand the relationship between writing and travel (and the many layers in between). In addition to diaries, travel writing scholars also study maps, charts, journals, letters, advertisements, and (surprising to most), fiction and poetry. Truly, the focus is theme and not genre which I consider a benefit to this inclusive field.
Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses some of the rarest, unique manuscripts in existence, and I am fortunate to have worked with their diaries in my travel writing scholarship.

Diaries and Major Questions
One of the major questions in this sub-discipline is “What is a travel writer?”, and critics such as Fussell often leave out those whose movement creates guidebooks, maps, or even the online reviews that 21st century movers depend on: “Guidebooks belong to the world of journalism, and they date; travel books belong to the literature, and they last. Guidebooks are not autobiographical but travel books are, and if the personality they reveal is too commonplace and un-eccentric, they will not be very readable” (15). Obviously, Fussell's point of view, albeit rare in this field, would cut the OOS selection down to fiction and only certain subjectively acceptable diaries and journals.
The Appeal of the Diary as an OOS
Scholars like me are interested in dusty, fragile diaries because they provide unique historical, social and political perspectives often from people outside the scope of conventional authority: works from / about females, workers or the non-elite/ non-military traveler during times of great movement.  Within English Studies, around the time of the Civil Rights movement, faculty have been pursuing these kinds of readings with hopes to "bring traditionally marginalized voices into the curriculum" (McDonald 150). The archival of such travel writings allows students to “read against the grain of what they are now regularly taught to see” (Campbell) and rethink sources that shape knowledge (epistemology). For example, The 1970s movements in feminism saw a resurgence of interest in women’s travel writing that had long been “superficially ... strongly associated with men” (Thompson 3). Moreover, Pratt’s Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, a postcolonial study of travel writing, (re)introduced critical vocabulary such as: “contact zones” (7-8), “transculturation” (7), and “autoethnography” (9) in the early 1990s, placing valuable significance on the “other” in travel writing while simultaneously adding to debates on how English scholars “shape-re-member-[an alternative] rhetorical presence" (Glenn 8).
Critical Lenses and Diaries
Because diaries and journals are troubling objects of study for multiple reasons (i.e. unreliable narrators, biased editors and censorship), I have discovered that one solution to approach this problem is to view non-fiction travel writing with the same literary lens I use when studying fiction. For example, my current project views 19th century women’s travel writing and the consistent use of pathetic fallacy to encode messages that, otherwise, they would be unable to communicate. My literary studies background allows me to read these archival texts with an eye for devices commonly associated with fiction- another overlap in English Studies.
In fact, Margo Culley, a feminist historian who has worked extensively with female travel diaries, warns readers that even in the most seemingly transparent writings, “all diarists are involved in a process, even if largely unconscious, of selecting details to create a persona” (12). Thus, travel writers have the opportunity to place themselves at the center of their saga in order to actualize their experience as intrepid (in an effort for financial gain, fame, cultural capital) instead of gaining deeper insight from the experience itself. Their writing then appropriates places and people as experiences which can be sold through literature or plane tickets.
When I consider travel diaries, which are my primary objects of study, I often see the public and private self in terms of inner and outer journey. In "Women Travel Writers and the Question of Veracity," scholar Maureen Mulligan explains how "emotional or spiritual journeys" allow more “literary” conventions such as poetry, suspense, characterization, symbolism, for example; so while the truth of what happened is questionable, the writing will point out what Mulligan refers to as “inner truth,” or as I like to see it the “inner journey” (171) of the writer. Sometimes that “inner journey” requires some help that comes in the form of exaggerations or outright lies- what I would label "fictionalization".
If diaries are literary constructs and not simply historical, archival material, Culley asks “How, then, do we read a diary, whether an original manuscript or an edited version, with an awareness that it is a verbal construct with important relationships to other forms of literature such as… fiction? “ (16). This is the question I think is overlooked, especially given the often used postcolonial lens with diary work, and even more so with travel diaries.
Works Cited
Campbell, Mary Baine. “Travel Writing and its Theory.” The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing. edited by Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, Kindle ed., Cambridge UP, 2006.
Culley, Margo. Introduction. A Day at a Time: The Diary Literature of American Women from 1764 to the Present, edited by Culley. The Feminist Press, 1985. pp. 3-26.
Fussell, Paul. Introduction. The Norton Book of Travel, by Fussel. Norton, 1987. pp. 13-17.
Glenn, Cheryl. Rhetoric Retold : Regendering The Tradition From Antiquity Through The Renaissance. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
McDonald, Marcia A. "The Purpose of the Univeersity and the Definition of English Studies: A Necessary Dialogue." Transforming English Studies: New Voices in an Emerging Genre." Ed. Claire Oostergaard, Jeff Ludwig & Jim Nugent. Lafayette: Parlor, 2009. pp. 143-62.
Mulligan, Maureen. "Women Travel Writers and the Question of Veracity." Women, Travel Writing, and Truth. Ed. Clare Broome Saunders. New York: Routledge, 2012. pp. 171-184.
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. 2nd ed., Routledge, 1992.
----. "The Rough Guide to Geopolitics with Mary Louise Pratt." YouTube, uploaded by Journeys: Chicago Humanities Festival, 10 Dec. 2014, https://youtu.be/5AnyBlkqaxw.