chapter  2
38 Pages

The Occidentalist Costume: Lord Byron and Travelers’ Perspectives on Eastern Europe

The era of 'post-touristic travel', as Paul Fussell describes it, is characterized by 'skepticism about deriving meaningful humanistic instruction from either physical settings or literary texts'. As outsiders in the British establishment, Forster and Conrad posit an idea of European cosmopolitanism conceived as a mode of self-consciousness that considers the vantage point of the other both in terms of perspective and geographical location. In order to convey the entrenched division between the West of Europe and its southern and eastern peripheries, both Forster and Conrad use the narrative perspective of 'dense' intellectual Britons. These characters vainly strive to escape the cognitive and emotional confinements of national stereotypes, and the physical and verbal violence that accompanies cross-cultural encounters in each novel foreshadows the irreconcilable differences among Europeans that led to bloodshed in World War I. Forster uses the fictional situation to self-consciously explore the impact of literary geographies and of the correlation between knowledge and imagination on British perceptions of Italy.