Touching

Jackson, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-2454-0354, 2019. Touching. In: A. Pettinger and T. Youngs ORCID: 0000-0002-9943-628X, eds., The Routledge research companion to travel writing. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 222-235. ISBN 9781472417923

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Abstract

In Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1941), Rebecca West recounts her travels through Macedonia with her husband and their guide Constantine. Visiting a monastery near Ochrid, they meet a young priest described by West as 'sensitive and a little sad'.1 He is clearly keen for them to stay, bringing them wine, sheep's cheese and eggs, although they have already eaten, and asking questions about life outside Macedonia. West remarks: 'He spoke with something that was not quite curiosity, that was more tactile; the effect was as if a very gentle blind person were running his finger-tips over one's features'.2 In these few tender words, West's description of the priest brings together a number of key ideas that are addressed in the present chapter: travel, touch, blindness, and the tactile properties of language.

Despite West's specific attention to the sensation of touch at this moment in her travelogue, accounts of the tactile remain largely overlooked by both authors and critics of travel writing. In light of such neglect, this chapter investigates the representation of touch in a region where multisensory perception is central to both navigation and survival: the Antarctic. It considers how travellers narrate their experiences of temperature and texture in seemingly untouchable territories, thinking about the ways that the extreme environment might mediate the perception and expression of contact. Rather than overlooking touch, Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World (1922) and Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita (1996), I propose, show us the significance of tact in the world's most inhospitable regions. These works are characterised not only by accounts of physical strength, but also by a sensitivity to the texture of the ice. Considering the ways that the glacial features of the Antarctic ask us to confront the limits of tactile experience, this chapter asks whether and how a preoccupation with touch – and the threat of its loss – is explored through a poetics of tact.

Item Type: Chapter in book
Creators: Jackson, S.
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: Abingdon
Date: 2019
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Depositing User: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 16 Sep 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2019 15:29
Related URLs:
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/37670

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