Narratives of Transformation

Pilgrimage Patterns and Authorial Self-Presentation in Three Pilgrimage Texts

in Journeys
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This paper explores a theme important in pilgrimage narratives from a variety of cultures: the expression of the author/pilgrim’s developing understanding of the meaning and significance of his or her pilgrimage. It does so through three case studies: readings of three first-person narratives from widely differing chronological, cultural and religious milieux. The first narrative is Aelius Aristides’ The Sacred Tales, an ancient Greek text written AD c. 170, which evokes the culture of Graeco- Roman healing pilgrimage; the second is Friar Felix Fabri’s Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae (‘Wanderings in the Holy Land’), a Latin narrative of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land written c.1484–8; and the third is Pierre Loti’s Un pèlerin d’Angkor (‘An Angkor Pilgrim’), a French text relating a personal (and initially nonreligious) pilgrimage to the temples of Angkor in what was then French Indo-China, published in 1912. These three narratives were produced in cultures with profoundly different traditions of pilgrimage, including its practice, its cultural meanings and the modes of its description. These significant differences immediately raise the question of the meaning and usefulness of attaching the label ‘pilgrimage narratives’ to all three texts, and invite a reasoning for the exercise of comparison across cultures and across time.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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