Art Travel and Imperialism

Instructor: Elisabeth Fraser

Traveling to rural Italy and France, to South America, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tahiti, Africa, and the Caribbean, nineteenth-century artists left metropolitan centers behind. This course looks at a host of artists – from Delacroix and Renoir to Matisse and Gauguin, to name a few – who went beyond the traditional gentleman’s Grand Tour and the classical artist’s requisite visit to Rome, to find new and unfamiliar places. These artists, along with numerous writers, scientists, tourists, and adventurers, sought out exoticism and “otherness” to revitalize western culture. This class will look at mainstream artistic and literary movements of the 19th century from the “outside”: we will consider how these European movements were formed in the “contact zone” with other cultures and on the periphery of Europe.

Our class will ask such questions as: How did travelers understand and represent “others” and how did these “others” respond to their visitors? Is all representation of the “other” exploitative? How does the history of tourism and colonialism change our views of artistic travelers? Our interdisciplinary readings draw on new ideas from a variety of perspectives, from Edward Said’s pioneering Orientalism to post-colonial theory. The course emphasizes critical approaches to the representation of travel, with a special focus on new analyses of imperialism. We will read recent books and articles with differing approaches and geographical emphases, and we look at travel representation in film, painting, prints, travel journals, and literature. The course is issue-based (not a survey); weekly readings are followed by in-depth class discussion (rather than lectures).

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