Writing the North in the Twenty-First Century: Gavin Francis and Sara Wheeler Through Arctic Europe and Beyond


Ludmilla Kostova

Резюме:

The article focuses on two books of travel writing, Gavin Francis’s True North. Travels in Arctic Europe (2008, 2010) and Sara Wheeler’s The Magnetic North. Notes from the Arctic Circle (2009, 2011), which represent journeys around the Arctic and self-consciously reflect upon received perceptions of the “old” continent’s polar regions and some northern territories beyond the physical-geographical confines of Europe. The narratives that the two authors present differ in significant ways: while Wheeler adopts a markedly gendered narratorial stance by representing herself, in her book’s opening chapter, as a parent travelling with her baby son, Francis assumes the stance of a “bookish wanderer,” following a precedent established by the noted writer, traveller, polyglot and war hero Patrick Leigh Fermor. Both texts shed light on important aspects of the travel genre in the present. They problematize colonialist patterns of portraying the places that their narrators visit and the “characters” whom they encounter in the process, and favour a perspective on travel which is sensitive to social, political, cultural and ecological issues. Wheeler, in particular, is very much concerned with the plight of indigenous populations and their struggle for survival and recognition in a changing world. While the problem of whether a total break with the ideological legacy of travel writing is possible remains unresolved in the two travel texts under consideration, they nevertheless enhance our knowledge and sense responsibility for the planet which we all inhabit, thus demonstrating the continued relevance of the travel genre to some of the key concerns of the present.

Ключови думи:

Arctic, Europe, America, Asia, travel, travel writing, gender, politics, ethics, ecology.

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