studies in travel writing

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Sayre, Robert, La Modernité et son autre: Récits de la rencontre avec l'indien en Amérique du Nord au dix-huitième siècle (Bécherel: Editions Les Perséides, 2008).

This study (in French) deals with the confrontation, and radical opposition, between the early civilization of capitalist modernity in 18th-century North-American colonies (most fully in British America, but to a certain extent in New France as well), and the «pre-modern» Amerindian cultures with which it was in close contact. The work brings into play history, economics and sociology, as well as ethno-history and anthropology, but it does so through the analysis of texts. The texts are of different kinds, but the study focuses particularly on one genre in the literature of encounter - the account of travel in Indian territory, especially propitious for a «recognition» of the culture of the Other. About half of the book is devoted to detailed analysis of a selection of these travel accounts, following a discussion of the genre. Those that are analyzed reveal the diverse modes of representation adopted by the travellers, principally Anglo-Americans like the militiaman Jonathan Carver and the Quaker botanist William Bartram, but also French – the Baron de Lahontan and the Jesuit father Charlevoix. Whether exploring the area of the upper Mississippi and Great Lakes or the South-East – the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida – each engaged the Indian «Other» in his own way. The analysis attempts to link the diverse perceptions of the Amerindian with the specific socio-cultural profiles of the individual travellers, but at the same time it brings out significant convergences among them.

The work is accompanied by illustrations, some in color, and an appendix providing a chronology of historical events, voyages and publications.

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