A barren legacy? The Arabian desert as trope in English travel writing, post-Thesiger

Owen, J., 2020. A barren legacy? The Arabian desert as trope in English travel writing, post-Thesiger. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This thesis examines the anglophone literature of the recent expeditioners, scientists and travellers who have been inspired to write about their experience of the Arabian desert in the period since 1950. Many of these texts respond to the writing of earlier generations of travellers to the region, and especially to the key desert narratives of T.E. Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger. All the modern texts under scrutiny participate in a rich intertextuality that contributes to an imaginative landscape that exceeds the sum of its geographical parts. This in turn offers an opportunity, exploited in this study, to examine how modern travellers have been able to redefine the wilderness encounter in light of wider discourses concerning postcolonialism, globalisation and ecocriticism, or whether they continue to project primarily Western preoccupations onto the supposed terra nullius of 'Arabia'.

Texts contributing to the desert literature genre are identified and analysed through this study, including work by so-called ‘footstep travellers’ Charles Blackmore and Mark Evans; those drawn to the urban experience within the desert context, including James (now Jan) Morris and Tim Mackintosh-Smith; women desert travellers, such as Adrienne Brady and Marguerite van Geldermalsen, and a number of writers whose travels have taken place since 2010 and whose work helps to throw light on emerging theories such as the 'accelerated sublime' – a concept defined by sociologists Claudia Bell and John Lyall and adapted to literary criticism by Graham Huggan. Many of the texts are little-studied combinations of travel and memoir that have hitherto attracted little or no scholarly attention; by bringing them together with more prominent modern desert texts, this thesis aims to establish the existence of a subgenre of Arabian desert literature that both engages with the celebrated canon of literature connected with the region while providing new ways of reflecting on Arab modernity. This thesis contributes new scholarship, therefore, to the study of anglophone travel literature, as reflective of broader cultural discourses, and demonstrates the potential of that literature to contest divisive stereotypes of the Arabian 'other'.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Owen, J.
Date: March 2020
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 24 Jun 2020 12:39
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2020 12:39
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/40100

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