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Tuesday, 04 March 2008

When Twain is Your Travel Guide: an Interview with James Wallace - Page 2

Written by Erin Kuschner
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Literature has always been a portal into the foreign. The exploration of lives that do not belong to you in a place you have never been is what a reader hopes to encounter page after page, from beginning to end. And for those who can only discover a new country from the seat of an armchair, travel literature is the holy grail of experiencing the unfamiliar.

INTRAVEL: Aside from England, have you lived anywhere abroad?

JW: The one semester in Italy, when I was teaching there.

INTRAVEL: How was teaching in England different than in America?

When Twain is Your Travel Guide: an Interview with James WallaceJW: It’s not fair to compare exactly because it’s American students, so it’s not like I was teaching English students. Although, during the fall semester I taught in Bath, I was teaching Romantic poetry – they needed someone to teach English Romantic poetry. So I did that and it was really nice to be teaching poetry in a place where you could go to Tintern Abbey. I took my class to Tintern Abbey in the rain, of course, under the tree and read Wordsworth…

INTRAVEL: Who are some of your favorite travel writers and why?

JW: Well, because I do concentrate on 19th century writing a lot, some of my favorites are 19th century writers. Hawthorne I like very much. He wrote a book about England, and then a novel set in Italy, in Rome, because he was living there at the time. I really do love Hawthorne. He kept a journal the whole time he was there, so his journal has also been published… quite a bit of travel writing by Hawthorne. Irving – kind of a minor, but very enjoyable, travel writer. Melville, who kept a journal that was published when he took a trip to the Holy Land, and then wrote a long poem about that. And then of course, in a way, all of Melville’s writing. And Twain, he’s a great favorite. I love Innocents Abroad, and A Tramp Abroad, and Following the Equator – he did quite a lot of travel writing.

INTRAVEL: Anyone contemporary?

JW: Bill Bryson! Notes from a Small Island. I read that because of going to England and back, but he’s also written books about Australia and Europe, he traveled in Europe.

INTRAVEL: Didn’t he also write A Walk in the Woods?

JW: Yes, it’s about walking the Appalachian Trail. He’s done quite a lot of travel writing. And Gopnik is really great – Paris to the Moon is really wonderful, a book about living in Paris. There are a lot of really wonderful travel writers, it’s true, and I really enjoy doing this area of research.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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