The spectacular and the sacred: narrating landscape in works of travel

Innes M. Keighren, Charles W. J. Withers

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This article—drawing upon the archives of the London publisher John Murray—addresses the narration of landscape in 19th-century printed accounts of travel and exploration. The geological work of the earth scientist Charles Lyell, and the textual and cartographic investigations of the scriptural geographer Edward Robinson, are used to examine the construction of narrative as a question of inscriptive practice, rhetorical desideratum, and interpretative strategy. We show how, with specific audiences and purposes in mind, and with Murray’s redactorial influence at heart, Lyell and Robinson cast their accounts in particular ways in order to satisfy expectations of scientific rigour, literary form, authorial credibility, and bodily encounter. The accounts—one by a scientist facing revelation in nature’s wonder, the other by a theologian reading landscape scientifically in order to ‘prove’ scriptural truth—contribute to our understanding of the geographical dimensions of the relationships between science and religion in the 19th century. In addressing the complex connections linking author, publisher, and audience in the production of landscape narratives, the paper highlights the importance of epistemological matters in examining the making of geographical narrative, addresses the value of publisher’s archives in geographical research and illustrates how and why authors (and publishers) chose to put their written accounts to order in the ways they did.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-30
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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