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Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism

The Tide of a Great Popular Movement

Written by Jeffrey Alan Melton

Publication Year: 2002

This illuminating study reevaluates an often overlooked aspect of Mark Twain's writing-his travel narratives-and demonstrates their centrality to his identity and thinking. Travel books, Jeffrey Melton asserts in this study, are vital to Mark Twain's identity as a writer and to his cultural influence, and not just, as many critics have argued, preliminary sketches or failed attempts at fiction. Furthermore, the identity that Twain establishes for himself in these books as the arch "tourist" provides the most compelling perspective from which to view his entire body of work. Melton begins by outlining the conventions of travel writing in the 19th century and proceeds to document Twain's subversion of those conventions to his own ends: a reinvention of the genre. The remainder of the study examines Twain's travel narratives individually, charting a progression from the Old World in The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad, in which Twain confronts the limitations of the "tourist" experience of life and discovers the powers of imagination and self-delusion, to the New World in Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi, in which Twain seeks to reconcile his "outsider" identity with a search for home. The final section considers Twain's last travel narrative, Following the Equator, as Twain searches for a complete escape from the "tourist" perspective and its imperialistic implications. In the process, Melton shows, Twain's travelogues highlight the author's philosophical and moral evolution as a writer from the worldviews of "innocence" to "experience." Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism is the first full-length work to treat Twain's travel narratives in depth and in specific context with his contemporary travel writers and with tourism. Academic libraries, students and scholars of American and southern literature, Mark Twain and travelogue enthusiasts-all will welcome this thoughtful look at the 19th century's most popular and best-selling travel writer. Jeffrey Alan Melton is Associate Professor of English at Auburn University Montgomery.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Front matter

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

I could not have completed this project without the help and guidance of numerous people. This book began as a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of South Carolina under the d irection of Ezra Greenspan, who

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pp. xiii-xv

In Following the Equator, his last travel book, Mark Twain shares an anecdote about an “elderly lady and her son” who, because of a series of mishaps, have traveled well beyond their original itinerary, getting further from home all the while. “Think of it,” he writes, “a projected excursion of five hundred miles gradually enlarged, without...

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1. The Success of Travel Books and the Failure of Tourism

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pp. 1-15

For readers in the late nineteenth century, Mark Twain was first and foremost a travel writer instead of a novelist.1 He earned the greatest patronage from his contemporaries as the endearing narrator of The Innocents Abroad, his most popular book and the best-selling travel book of the century, rather than as the author of...

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2. Tourism and Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 16-58

No other genre of American literature enjoyed a greater popularity or a more enduring prominence in the nineteenth century than travel writing. Essentially, it had been intertwined with the development of America’s literary identity from its beginnings, as the first European explorers recorded their experiences for readers back home. By the...

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3. Touring the Old World: Faith and Leisure in The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad

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pp. 59-94

Touring eastward in em>The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain repeatedly snubs the grandiose pretensions of the cultures he encounters.1 He shows readers that the Old World, especially Europe, if viewed honestly through definitively American eyes, falls far short of common, overblown expectations. Although such a reading of...

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4. Touring the New World: The Search for Home in Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi

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pp. 95-137

Like his travel books to the Old World, Twain’s two books westward into the New World explore touristic experience. Added to that context, however, is a pressing search for home. Roughing It and Life on the Mississippi stand out for their peculiarly autobiographical focus. Of course, all travel books are autobiographical by definition, but these...

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5. Touring the Round: Imperialism and the Failure of Travel Writing in Following the Equator

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pp. 138-166

Mark Twain ended his travel-writing career much as he began it, producing a successful narrative based on a highly publicized tour with a specific itinerary, a farewell tour for America’s most popular tourist. Following the Equator comes the closest of his travel books in its form and structural execution to matching...


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pp. 167-181

Works Cited

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pp. 183-186

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 187-196


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pp. 197-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817311605

Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 427557193
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Travelers' writings, American -- History and criticism.
  • Americans -- Foreign countries -- History -- 19th century.
  • Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
  • Popular culture -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Tourism -- History -- 19th century.
  • Travel writing -- History -- 19th century.
  • Voyages and travels -- History -- 19th century.
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