Although early reviewers of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland recognized the novel as a
fictional travelogue, the travelogue aspect of the novel remains underexamined.
This essay examines Flatland as a travelogue and as a work of ethnographic criticism
in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science. Situating
Flatland in relation to the emergence of Victorian anthropology as a science
and in relation to Notes and Queries on Anthropology, For the Use of Travellers
and Residents in Uncivilized Lands (1874)—in particular to its concerns with
the dangers of cultural assumptions—provides a means of tackling the problem
both early reviewers and more recent scholars have noted concerning the marked
differences between the novel’s two parts and the difficulties of making sense of
the novel as a whole.