The Continent Behind

Alienation and the American Scene in George William Curtis’s Lotus-Eating: A Summer Book

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Abstract

George William Curtis was a popular travel essayist and lecturer during the mid-nineteenth century, but his work has seen limited critical attention. This article examines book Lotus-Eating, an account of his summer trip visiting numerous tourist destinations throughout New York and New England. Situating Curtis’s narrative against the literary nationalism of his contemporaries, the article examines how Curtis’s prior four-year tour of Europe intrudes upon his experiences of the American scene, resulting in a sense of alienation and melancholic yearning for Europe. Curtis’s text engages central questions of national identity as it intersects with the emergence of nature tourism, but contrary to the dominant rhetoric of his time, during his tour Curtis articulates not a triumphal belief in American manifest destiny but a mournful nostalgia for the scenes and sensations of Europe.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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