Traveling South: Travel Narratives and the Construction of American Identity

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Overview


Traveling South is the first major study of how narratives of travel through the antebellum South helped construct an American national identity during the years between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. John Cox makes his case on the basis of a broad range of texts that includes slave narratives, domestic literature, and soldiers’ diaries, as well as more traditional forms of travel writing. In the process he extends the boundaries of travel literature both as a genre and as a subject of academic study.

The writers of these intranational accounts struggled with the significance of travel through a region that was both America and “other.” In writings by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur and William Bartram, for example, the narrators create personal identities and express their Americanness through travel that, Cox argues, becomes a defining aspect of the young nation. In the narratives of Frederick Douglass and Solomon Northup, the complex relationship between travel and slavery highlights contemporary debates over the meaning of space and movement. Both Fanny Kemble and Harriet Jacobs explore the intimate linkings of women’s travel and the construction of an ideal domestic space, whereas Frederick Law Olmsted seeks, through his travel writing, to reform the southern economy and expand a New England yeoman ideology throughout the nation. The Civil War diaries of Union soldiers, written during the years that witnessed the largest movement of travelers through the South, echo earlier themes while concluding that the South should not be transformed in order to become sufficiently “American”; rather, it was and should remain a part of the American nation, regardless of perceived differences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Cox's critical approach reflects an unusual and interesting combination of interests in the cognate areas of travel writing, domestic narratives, and nationalist literature. I know of no other book quite like this one, and I consider it a fresh approach to an important and timely subject."--Michael P. Branch, editor of Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden

"Traveling South is a solid and well-conceptualized book with very smart and persuasive arguments and insights. Cox shows excellent command of the scholarship of travel, travel writing, and of the individual travelers he analyzes. Cox carves out a niche in the scholarship of the field as well as in the interpretation of texts of travel."--Mary S. Schriber, author of Writing Home: American Women Abroad

"Traveling South is a carefully argued book that provides many surprising insights into texts both familiar and forgotten. Cox deftly creates space for himself amid the established critical approaches to nationalism, slavery, domesticity, and travel writing; more importantly he is able to map out in a clear and straightforward manner the often subtle connections among these unwieldy issues."--Studies in American Culture

"In addition to providing a new perspective from which to explore southern social and cultural history, Cox makes his most significant contributions in Traveling South to the study of travel and American literature by attempting to broaden the scope of the genre of travel literature. . . . Cox's use of a wide variety of scholarship facilitates his novel approach to the study of the antebellum South and American national identity. The arguments Cox makes in Traveling South are provocative and generally persuasive. The connection the author draws between American identity and that of the United States' 'internal other,' the South, is most compelling and one that is too often overlooked by scholars."--Southern Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820327655
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 254

Meet the Author


John D. Cox is an assistant professor of English at Georgia College & State University. He also serves as the associate director of the Center for Georgia Studies and the assistant editor of the Flannery O’Connor Review.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Representing America : the American as traveler in the work of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur and William Bartram 19
Ch. 2 Moving slaves : Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, and the politics of travel in antebellum America 63
Ch. 3 Domestic travel : the narratives of Fanny Kemble and Harriet Jacobs 103
Ch. 4 Yeomen all : Frederick Law Olmsted and the consolidation of the American economy and culture 141
Ch. 5 Tourists with guns (and pens) : Union soldiers and the Civil War South 165
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