The Comparative Gaze: Travelers in France before the Era of Mass Tourism
Abstract

This article examines early accounts of visitors to France (the agriculturalist Arthur Young, the medical student James Mason Warren, and the writer Edith Wharton) and asks questions about the ways in which travel and cross-cultural study yield inherently comparative tales that often tell as much about home as about the foreign country. This first element of analysis is fundamentally spatial, comparing home and abroad. Second, knowledge about a place visited is also embedded in the particular reason for the journey itself. Third, the comparative perspective is also affected by the length of stay. Both self-knowledge and formal research are activities of continual knowledge accretion. First impressions (of space and place) are constantly revised along with the accumulation of knowledge and information. Travel thus provides both a spatial and temporal comparative vision.


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