Travel, Ethics, and Genre: Emily Hahn's Travel Writings (funded by National Science Council).

    Project: Research project

    Project Details

    Description

    The object of this study is the travel writing in four books by Emily Hahn (1905-1997), “a great lost American literary treasure,” according to The New Yorker. This project includes two different and yet ultimately related aspects. One is the so-called “ethics of travel,” a term borrowed from Syed Manzurul Islam, which encompasses two different dimensions. The first focuses on the moral difficulties and ethical challenges facing the traveling subject when encountering a very different culture. While the traveler may strongly feel such predicaments or repress them thanks to psychological defense mechanisms, we as critics might also be puzzled by the difficulties concerned, though we might be inspired to explore the ethical nuances of the knotty issues concerned and gain some insights not readily available to the traveler. When we suspect that the traveler-narrator is lying in a part of his or her travelogue and wonder if such breaches of truthfulness entails something immoral, then our discussion of the “ethics of travels” has already departed from the more conventional kind of thematic or content studies and moved to a “meta-level” concerning different writing styles, generic norms, and the development of travel literature in history.

    This project seeks especially to explore the second kind of “ethics of travel,” that is, the ethical implications of travel writing as such. This concern goes well with my persistent interest in the changing writing style in the history of Western travel literature. Using Hahn’s writing in the 1930s and 40s as a prime example, I wish to sketch the developmental trends of travel literature from the more scientific, realistic kind in the nineteenth century, through a kind of more “literary” mode still adhering to Realist conventions, to the more recent “postmodern” writing which deliberately confuses fiction and reality. Furthermore, I wish to probe into some ethical significance and aesthetic effects of the various writing styles which defy the earlier norms.
    StatusFinished
    Effective start/end date01/08/1031/10/11

    Keywords

    • Emily Hahn, ethics of travel, travel literature, twentieth century American literature, generic studies