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The world inscribed: Literary form, travel, and the book in England, 1580–1660

Philip S Palmer, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Between 1580 and 1660 the English travel book emerged as a site of rich literary innovation. To supplement practical features long associated with the genre, writers called upon an array of poetic devices, satirical modes, and mixed prose and verse forms to represent the early modern traveled world. The World Inscribed: Literary Form, Travel, and the Book in England, 1580-1660 historicizes such literary experimentation by examining how travel narratives moved through the transmission circuits of early modern book culture, and how, in turn, modes of textual production shaped the genre's formal characteristics. Reading canonical poets and dramatists (Spenser, Donne, Marvell, Jonson, Herbert) together with a number of contemporary printed and manuscript travel books, this project argues that the aesthetics and literary aims of prose travel writing developed rapidly alongside developments in the travel book as a circulating text technology. The project's five case studies articulate not only how the form and style of early modern English travel writing could be altered or suppressed across different versions of a given narrative (within print or manuscript networks), but also how the travel book itself could serve as a vehicle for literary texts, especially verse, related to the writer's travel experience but not necessarily offering direct descriptions of travel. By engaging with the understudied intersection of literary form, textual transmission, and early modern English travel writing, this project traces how new ways of representing the traveled world through material texts reveal the formal mechanics of a genre in the making.

Subject Area

European history|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Palmer, Philip S, "The world inscribed: Literary form, travel, and the book in England, 1580–1660" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589124.