Reviews

Chloe Chard, Pleasure and Guilt on the Grand Tour: Travel Writing and Imaginative Topography 1600-1830. Manchester University Press, 1999. ISBN 0719048052. Price: £16.99.[Record]

  • Sophie Thomas

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  • Sophie Thomas
    University of Sussex

This is, on the whole, an impressive and resourceful book that takes as its main subject the rhetorical strategies travel writers make use of in accounts of their journeys. These accounts take many forms, from generic first-person narratives to descriptions of travel—or attitudes to travel—that find a home in a range of literary genres, including novels and poems, although few canonical works of literature receive any sustained analysis. This is not, Chard emphasizes, a socio-historical project, but an examination of the rhetoric of description and response used in the encounter with the foreign. The "foreign" primarily designates Italy, since the book focuses on the Grand Tour, but physical geography is emphatically sidelined in favour of what Chard calls an "imaginative topography" (10)—a site for producing rhetorical and theoretical strategies for understanding and appropriating the foreign, a site, thus, that gives rise to certain identifiable forms of language. Since these forms of language register "pleasure" and "guilt" one might expect questions of consciousness, subjectivity, and identity to come into play, but Chard clearly eschews psychoanalytic considerations for a more descriptive account of "discursive formations": their implicit rules and regularities (common themes, assumptions, speaking positions, and so on), and their appropriations of other discourses, such as aesthetic theory, art criticism, geology, botany and demography, and other discourses of travel, such as primitivism, Orientalism, and Romantic Hellenism (13). Important theoretical questions are occasionally raised, but Chard prefers to remain the detached compiler of an at times excessively itemized array of examples. Chard's first chapter pays particular attention to the rhetoric of opposition and intensification that writers make use of, and these are carefully analysed in all their variant as well as constituent parts. An engaging review of the rhetoric of travel emerges, some aspects of which remain alive in attitudes to travel today. Much is made of the opposition between the familiar and the foreign, in which the familiar must be loyally defended against the excitement, and challenge, of the foreign. The relation of the traveller to the foreign, moreover, is expressed in terms that barely suppress a sense of rivalry, in which the right balance must be struck between appreciation and censure, between immersion in the new, and maintaining the stance of the detached observer (the gendered configuration of this conflict pits a submissive, luxuriating effeminacy against manly liberty and independence of mind). Implicit appeals to caution notwithstanding, the rhetoric of travel in the eighteenth century also involves an acute sense of drama or intensification, and the use of hyperbolic formulations to convey it. Chard draws these forth from an extensive catalogue of examples: some emphasize strategies of comparison and/or incompatibility, some make use of 'itemization' as a way of underlining the uniqueness of a series of objects, and the sense of wonder they elicit (curiosity is another important factor in seventeenth century accounts of the Grand Tour in particular). Profusion, excess, immoderate production (e.g. the natural fruitfulness of Italy, the sheer number of Bernini statues...) also suggest of course (and not without a significant trace of guilt) the pitfalls of immoderate consumption. Much of the pleasure derived from travel is directly related to its control or containment, which makes Chard's attention to rhetoric itself both appropriate and productive. The self-consciousness of hyperbole relates in no small measure to the self-dramatization of the writer, to the way in which certain travel accounts especially emphasize the position, or function, of the speaker as the provider of a verbal experience that must equal the "extravagance and intensity of the topography" (64). In this sense, rhetorical ingenuity is ...

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