Writing Geography: Traversing Early Modern English Chorographies
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Early modern English chorographies are diverse, hybrid texts that defy reduction and reward curiosity. As a genre of geographical writing focused on locally-scaled, regional surveys, chorographies are characterized by their rich combinations of intellectual considerations and literary forms. To illuminate the conventions of style and subject matter that typify the chorography genre, this dissertation argues that chorographies are informed by their sustained and foundational engagements with travel. Chorographers travelled to conduct their surveys, they represented the perspectives of travellers, and they collated and structured chorographical information in the form of travel narratives; therefore, chorographies are a form of travel writing. Further, chorographies are texts that immerse their readers in the experience of travel. Readers navigate geographical space textually. In this way, geographical literacy is fostered by chorographical representations of travel. That is, chorographers enhanced, solidified, and made accessible local geographical knowledge by their travel writing and by their manner of organizing geographical information as a traveler might experience it. As I argue in this dissertation, although there existed a vast contemporary literature of instructional guides intended to inform and improve the act of travel, formal moves to standardize, or even to encourage, travel writing were infrequent and underdeveloped. There were no guidebooks to furnish a codified pedagogy of best practices for itinerant chorographers producing peripatetic chorographies, which contributed to the genre’s heterogeneity during this period. However, chorographies were social texts. As chorographers surveyed England in a grand, multigenerational project lacking formalized rules or guidelines, they found direction and purpose as a scholarly community, and they motivated and influenced one another in the development of their literature. As this dissertation explains, the discursive hybridity that characterizes this emergent genre was defined slowly, county-by-county, in chorographical prose and verse that is both idiosyncratic and communal, and which energizes and enriches English geographical discourse.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeCooley, Ron; Klaassen, Frank; Robinson, Peter
Copyright DateAugust 2020