The History of Travel Writing: Research Paper Progress

When I first began my research for this paper, I realized I needed to define “Travel Writing.” The genre is also often referred to as “Travel Literature.” Travel writing certainly doesn’t have to be non-fiction, which was a sort of vague assumption I had in the back of my mind at first. Guide books, memoirs, journalism, documentaries, and fictional stories can all be considered part of the travel writing genre.

I decided to go back in history and examine a few examples of early travel writing. I came across Petrarch, who I had studied in poetry classes. Petrarch was an Italian scholar who became well known in the humanistic movement for his climb of Mount Ventoux in 1336– which was one of the first documented accounts of traveling for the sake of travel (not out of necessity).

I also surveyed more contemporary travel writers, like Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau, all the way up to Jan Morris and Jean Houston. I saw that nature writing often overlaps with travel writing. One of the hurdles I am encountering is the vastness of my topic. There are endless numbers of travel writers out there, good and bad, and thousands of sub-genres within the main genre. I am thinking I will narrow my paper down to three of four travel writers and focus on their biographies, achievements, etc…

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