Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers

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‘Written amid hurry and confusion’: Richard Wilbraham’s inscriptive practices as regimen and comfort

In the searing late summer of 1837, Richard Wilbraham (1811-1900) began a journey on horseback from Tehran into Georgia and the snowy Caucasus Mountains. Despite the privations of desert heat and mountain chill, he sustained a strict regimen of writing—maintaining a journal initially for “the amusement of my own family”, and later, as loneliness and hardship became acute, for the comforting regularity it offered. In the face of extremes, Wilbraham’s journal was his “companion”. Whether bedding down in “the dark and noisome stable of an Armenian hovel, or in the palace of a Turkish Pasha”, Wilbraham’s evenings ended in the same manner—“recording more or less fully the impressions of the day”. In a practical and epistemic sense, Wilbraham’s were travels framed by inscriptive practice.

Although a recent materialist turn in historical geography has encouraged a “closer attention to the practices, techniques and technologies” of geographical writing, comparatively little consideration has been given to the productive practices which facilitated printed works of travel. Interrogating the embodied practices of travel writing is central to understanding the ways in which authors sought to establish a correspondence between their lived experiences and the textual representation of those experiences—how, that is, they turned worlds into words. In reflecting on the writing practices of Richard Wilbraham, this paper considers why authors chose the inscriptive routines they did, how their texts were shaped by those choices, and what the implications of those decisions were for perceptions of authors’ credibility, readability, and importance.
Period12 Apr 201116 Apr 2011
Event typeConference
LocationSeattle, United StatesShow on map