Compare and contrast Coxe and Williams

instructor's notes, January 30th 2003

Switzerland -- Coxe and Williams: the first serious travel books (but cf. Moore).

Sublime: challenge? Move to a landscape that, unlike England of Lewesdon or the Wye Valley, clearly not accommodated to human habitation; picturesque, but primarily sublime (e.g., Rhine Falls, ascent up the Reuss Valley; Glaciers) - perspective on human littleness, human vulnerability. . .

Change. But anticipates values of Romantic travel to come. Travellers that publish accounts, help to change perception of places visited; encourage more travel, change places. (First real guide: John Murray, A Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland 1838) Cf. changes now to bypass Urner Loch, 70 yard tunnel above Devil's Bridge (Coxe 160; 163-4). - built in 1707; still the route in 1885, according to a Baedeker. Or Gondo Ravine. What values are in question? Is the sublime what we should foster?

Edenic: pre-lapsarian views of first travellers -- "the uncorrupted simplicity of this people" (Williams, Introduction); always remains a desire. (Inhabitants spoiled by visitors…) -- Williams's conclusion: "there is always a resource against every feeling of dislike, or of weariness, in the meditation of that glorious scenery, the view of which renders the mind insensible to human evils, by lifting it beyond their reach" (276-7) -- imagines a chateau "seated at the foot of an Alpine hill, a torrent stream rolls invisibly past the dwelling, and an enormous glacier lifts its snows in the neighbourhood."

Gender? Women writers more particularly -- creation of a subjective aesthetics, impressionism. Cf. emotions of opening paragraph of Williams (discuss). And consider expectations of 2nd para. -- liberty not profaned; smiles on the vallies, etc. Is this right? --

The picturesque manner of viewing has been, from its inception, a practice culturally coded 'male' -- and so, for that matter, has the Continental tour and the whole process of acculturation it represents. . . . The picturesque retained the assumptions of gender given to it by its founders, who imagined a male art of seeing that could correct and complete what a feminized landscape held forth. -- James Buzard, The Beaten Track (1993), p. 16.

Participatory. Interconnection between the observer and the observed; One Mind theory; is this stronger in Williams? Cf. Rhine Falls (c. 61). Does it hold any meaning? Opposing view (New Historicist):

there is no nature except as it is constituted by acts of political definition made possible by particular forms of government. When the governmental understructure changes, nature changes. Each time a nation suffers an invasion, civil war, major change of ministry, or some other crisis, national or international, it must revise its landscape, the image of its own nature. -- Alan Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (1989), p. 104.

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Document created February 1st 2003