American Travellers in Scandinavia

Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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The emergence of the racial theories of Nordicism and Anglo-Saxonism at the threshold of the twentieth century changed the cultural and political mapping of the world, and gave a new impetus to the construction of national discourses both in Europe and overseas. In its complex situation as a former colony and a rising empire, America strove to forge a new identity based on the biological findings of fresh scientific fields, the so-called “pseudosciences”. In their travel texts, American travel writers wished to revive their ties with the Old Norse world, embarking on trips which aimed to link the discovery of Vinland, by the Vikings, with the nineteenth-century rediscovery of the Old Norse culture, by Victorian and American scholars.

This book explores American perceptions of the Nordic countries which contributed to the construction of the nineteenth-century American national identity. The concepts of Nordic unity and the Americanisation of Northern Europe, in response to the increasing immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, are connected to American travellers’ parallel attempt to reflect upon the Nordic societies from a utopian perspective.

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About the author

Dimitrios Kassis holds a PhD from the Faculty of English Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. His doctoral thesis was entitled “Representations of the North in Victorian Travel Literature”, and was published in 2015. He also received a Master’s degree, with distinction, in Education Studies from Roehampton University, UK, and a Master’s degree in Translation Studies from the Department of French Language and Literature, at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Dimitrios speaks sixteen foreign languages, and his academic interests are connected with travel literature, translation and language studies. He has published two monographs, and is currently working as a high school teacher in the public sector.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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Published on
Dec 12, 2016
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Pages
119
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ISBN
9781443817592
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Greece has always occupied a prevalent position in European philosophy. During the Enlightenment, the Greco-Roman culture gained a new impetus, which paved the way for the surge of the Grand Tour and established Italy as a popular travel destination amongst European travellers who yearned to be in close communion with its ancient sites. Unlike Italy, Greece still posed a challenge to the average travel writer, since it functioned as a bridge between Europe and the Orient. The gradual shift of focus from Neoclassical ideals to Northernism, which conveniently conformed to the nation-building Anglo-Saxon paradigm, marked a parallel reversal of cultural order, which resulted in the view of Greece as a land of piracy and banditry, conditions which intensified its perception as the Oriental Other and led British intellectuals to associate the Greek nation with nearby countries on various levels. Considering the parallel emergence of the “pseudosciences”, which venerated the image of the Nordic race and persistently viewed other nations as the Other, Greece was automatically placed as an alien culture in the light of Social Darwinism. During its war of independence, Greece became the subject of ardent political and cultural debates, which favoured its autonomy from the Ottoman yoke, yet undermined its complete transformation into an independent state.

The focal point of this book is British women travellers’ perceptions of Greece and the Orient from the late-eighteenth century until the late-Victorian era. The construction of a Greek dystopia will be explored in relation to the historical background that fuelled the negative conceptualisation of the Greek nation as mongrel, unruly, indolent and perilous to the British imperialist agenda. This book, therefore, sheds light on British women travellers’ efforts to subvert patriarchal authority and engage in predominantly male activities, during which they are purposefully or unconsciously led to several misconceptions regarding the Greek cause.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.

Travel literature has always been associated with the construction of utopias which were founded on the idea of unknown lands. During their journeys in foreign lands, British travellers tended to formulate various critical opinions based on their background knowledge of the country visited. Their attempts to interpret other nations were often misinterpretations of the peoples in question as the Other. At the close of the eighteenth century, when Grand Tourism started to fade away and travelling became a mainstream activity for the middle-class Briton, travel writers attempted to identify with the corners of Europe which had not been spoiled by the spirit of industrialisation. Influenced by the concepts of the Noble Savage, the Volksgeist and the Theory of Climate, British travellers were eager to discover a utopia in sequestered places commonly labelled as peripheries, like Scandinavia. Moreover, throughout the nineteenth century, racial theories such as Teutonism, Anglo-Saxonism, and Nordicism dominated the imperialist discourse of Britain. As such, an increasing number of Victorian travellers treated the North as a utopian locus which could be examined in the light of the aforementioned racial theories, or were attracted to the Nordic countries due to their rediscovery of Old Norse literature. This book deals with travel narratives on the North that were produced from 1784 to 1897 by both male and female writers whose conceptualisation of gender impacted their writing. In addition, it demonstrates that these travellers address Britishness through the narrative positions they assumed and through their split cultural identity: partially British, yet concurrently English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. Given the increasing anti-Celtic spirit which emerged at that time, it is worth reflecting upon the instances in which the North was viewed as the hotbed of racial discourse on British nationhood.
Greece has always occupied a prevalent position in European philosophy. During the Enlightenment, the Greco-Roman culture gained a new impetus, which paved the way for the surge of the Grand Tour and established Italy as a popular travel destination amongst European travellers who yearned to be in close communion with its ancient sites. Unlike Italy, Greece still posed a challenge to the average travel writer, since it functioned as a bridge between Europe and the Orient. The gradual shift of focus from Neoclassical ideals to Northernism, which conveniently conformed to the nation-building Anglo-Saxon paradigm, marked a parallel reversal of cultural order, which resulted in the view of Greece as a land of piracy and banditry, conditions which intensified its perception as the Oriental Other and led British intellectuals to associate the Greek nation with nearby countries on various levels. Considering the parallel emergence of the “pseudosciences”, which venerated the image of the Nordic race and persistently viewed other nations as the Other, Greece was automatically placed as an alien culture in the light of Social Darwinism. During its war of independence, Greece became the subject of ardent political and cultural debates, which favoured its autonomy from the Ottoman yoke, yet undermined its complete transformation into an independent state.

The focal point of this book is British women travellers’ perceptions of Greece and the Orient from the late-eighteenth century until the late-Victorian era. The construction of a Greek dystopia will be explored in relation to the historical background that fuelled the negative conceptualisation of the Greek nation as mongrel, unruly, indolent and perilous to the British imperialist agenda. This book, therefore, sheds light on British women travellers’ efforts to subvert patriarchal authority and engage in predominantly male activities, during which they are purposefully or unconsciously led to several misconceptions regarding the Greek cause.

Travel literature has always been associated with the construction of utopias which were founded on the idea of unknown lands. During their journeys in foreign lands, British travellers tended to formulate various critical opinions based on their background knowledge of the country visited. Their attempts to interpret other nations were often misinterpretations of the peoples in question as the Other. At the close of the eighteenth century, when Grand Tourism started to fade away and travelling became a mainstream activity for the middle-class Briton, travel writers attempted to identify with the corners of Europe which had not been spoiled by the spirit of industrialisation. Influenced by the concepts of the Noble Savage, the Volksgeist and the Theory of Climate, British travellers were eager to discover a utopia in sequestered places commonly labelled as peripheries, like Scandinavia. Moreover, throughout the nineteenth century, racial theories such as Teutonism, Anglo-Saxonism, and Nordicism dominated the imperialist discourse of Britain. As such, an increasing number of Victorian travellers treated the North as a utopian locus which could be examined in the light of the aforementioned racial theories, or were attracted to the Nordic countries due to their rediscovery of Old Norse literature. This book deals with travel narratives on the North that were produced from 1784 to 1897 by both male and female writers whose conceptualisation of gender impacted their writing. In addition, it demonstrates that these travellers address Britishness through the narrative positions they assumed and through their split cultural identity: partially British, yet concurrently English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. Given the increasing anti-Celtic spirit which emerged at that time, it is worth reflecting upon the instances in which the North was viewed as the hotbed of racial discourse on British nationhood.
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