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Travelogue as a Literary Genre
|by Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.|
Travel Book, Travel Guide, Travel account and Travel Record all these can all be called travel writing. Some of these have relation more to history than to literature, since history in the past is sometimes culled from the explorer’s and traveller’s records. They are extremely valuable in spite of their not having high literary values. There is an encyclopedia of Literature of Travel and Exploration. Though these are called books and so literature, what makes a literary work is the unfolding or the revelation of the writer’s feelings, personality, imaginativeness and fine turns of expression, to describe some qualities essential for literary compositions.
Travel Writing and its various Linkages
Travel essays could be primarily informative, offering worthwhile information to readers who wish to be travelers or tourists just as a hobby. As travel guides they are purely intended to give information regarding availability of food, facilities for accommodation, food etc indicating distances from various points to destinations, modes available for travel, places not be missed for sight seeing and such basic information.
Travel as a literary mode and an adjunct in literary writing is evidenced in literatures of almost all languages. Homer’s Odyssey is an account of the travels of the hero Odysseus. Dante’s Divine Comedy is an account of a travel through the different regions of hell. This device is used in our epics and kavyas (imaginative literary poetic compositions), in Sanskrit and other Bhasha literatures in our country. In the title Ramayana yana refers to journey or travel of Rama. Mahabharata describes Arjun’s pilgrimages, again travels. In Bhagavatpuran Balaram Vidur takes to travels for self-purification. Kavyas too exploit travel motif as in Kalidasa’s Meghsandesh. In Hindi Rahul Sankrityayan (1893-1963), the culture icon, wrote several travel books of great literary value. In Malayalam KeshavMenon’s Bilayati vishesham published in 1930 belongs to the same category. In Gujarati Kaka Saheb Kalelkar wrote Jeevanleela, considered a classic and widely translated. Autobiographies record experiences, impressions revealing feelings, relating to certain incidents in one’s own life. Such a work may also contain travel experiences and travel-related information but these may either just be incidental or not of much importance.
Travelogue – The Fully Emerged Literary Genre
Not very long ago, it has been the trend to consider travel writing as peripheral to literary writing. Academics considered this writing as not very valuable to be considered literary. Owing to the emerging trends of travel experience among the different categories of travellers and tourists, travellers with religious considerations like acquiring merit (teerthayatras) travels with journalistic motivation, travels for probing, understanding and reading histories with a new point of view, with personal, spiritual and philosophical motives and aspiration, travelogues came in the limelight. Any systematic and aesthetic analysis of travelogue studies need to view the corpus selected for specified purpose with stress on the ‘W’s: who produced the discourse, where, when and how it is produced are all matters deserving study. W need to examine ‘when’ for broadly a travel discourse may belong to many categories, some of which readily could be stated. These categories do not purport to be exhaustive.
The characteristics of each of the categories listed above are bound to be different. Tourist places of interest, cultural or religious destinations are spaces where different cultures throng, meet, interact and share information and experience. They are thrown into the company of one another to form and perceptions and exchange ideas and feelings. The visits and stay at destinations help forming, correcting and revising ideas and perceptions for the better. Today’s tourists and travelers are a thick medley of migrant, neo-settlers, short -time tourists and religious enthusiasts. Many a travelogue does contain literary merit and artistic excellence. Travel accounts as literature are widely varied. There is no homogeneity in this form though it is surely a genre. The purpose of writing may vary from writer to writer and from time to time. So too the degree of subjectivity in the writing.. Travelogue in the hands of imaginative-artistic people charter fresh regions (fresh fields and pastures new) clearly demarcating, mediating, reconciling or harmonizing cultures through observation, understanding and mutual appreciation. Widening horizons is precisely the purpose of a travelogue.
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Comments on this Article
03/07/2016 01:58 AM
08/17/2013 20:29 PM
Bijay Kant Dubey
08/17/2013 12:35 PM
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