There are 196 countries in the world, but most of us will only see a fraction of them and rely on travel writing for objective accounts of distant places, ‘seeing’ the world through the eyes of its writers. At the heart of travel writing is constant comparisons between home and away, it’s how travel writers construct the sense of the exotic we find so appealing but it relies on the assumption that our idea of home is fixed, stable and familiar to all readers. I’m interested in writers who challenge what we think we know and who use their travel writing to interrogate the big political issues of their time. Through this presentation I hope to go beyond the idea that travel writing is a passive reflection of the wider world but is an essential part of the dialogue we use to shape it.
I am a fourth year English Literature student at the University of Glasgow, studying at Glasgow has given me the opportunity to study a diverse range of topics from modernism and gender to the rise of the zombie! However I think a lot of my current research interests stem from my very Scottish upbringing. I grew up in Scotland during the tumultuous pre-referendum years. In fact I turned 17 on the eve of the Scottish Independence Referendum. Looking back it seems likely that my interest in the formation of national identity can be easily traced back to this experience. Having had to think so critically about my own nationality I became interested in how national identity is constructed more widely and what place literature might have in it. For example what place travel writing might have in how we see ourselves as well as how we see other countries. Travel writing particularly appeals to me because I believe it pushes us to learn about cultures which are often very different to our own and can strengthen our sense of being one part of a global community. The field of travel writing studies is fairly new which makes it a very exciting area to be working in with lots still to be researched! I hope after my presentation you are similarly enthused and encouraged to think about travel writing in a new way. When I’m not in the library you can normally find me competing on the university fencing team or trying out recipes on my long suffering flatmates.