Scientific travel narrative

Weber, Anne-Gaëlle, À beau mentir qui vient de loin. Savants, voyageurs et romanciers au XIXe siècle, Honoré Champion, 2004.

In this book, Anne-Gaëlle Weber explores the genre of scientific travel narrative in the 19th century, at a time when the remotest parts of the globe have already been trodden by generations of travellers and readers in Europe have developed a taste for the accounts of their journeys. Through a large collection of data, Weber shows that, despite the narrowing of new places to discover, the audience kept calling for more of this literature. As a consequence, the number of new accounts increased drastically from the first decades of the 19th century on. A close observation of these texts, and of editorial notes, enables Weber to point out that writers of scientific travel narratives started rethinking their writing practices in order to bring a new dynamic to the genre. But, while doing so, they were also concerned to keep meeting the expectation of the readership. Despite the scientific purpose of these authors, they began integrating fictional elements into their accounts while, in the meantime, several writers of fiction, like Poe, Melville, Vernes, Dumas, Stevenson or Conrad were working on their fictional travel narratives. Thus, through this study, Anne-Gaëlle Weber underlines the connections between these two genres, and the way fiction and science meet through the travels narratives of the time.

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