Validity of Valerie Wheeler’s arguments in the light of In an Antique Land

03 Mar

The validity of Wheeler’s argument in  terms of In An Antique Land are true to certain level  If we take the definition of travel writing by Wheeler as “Literate, but not literary, anthropological but not anthropologists, exploring but not explorers, travel writers produce something like ethnography but not ethnography. Anthropologists seek exotic settings, tell of what they find, and are fond of travel books; but they may deny being travelers, are uncomfortable making their personal experiences public, and produce accounts strikingly different, even opposite in form, from travel books.”

Amitav  Hush’s book In An antique Land best supports the wheeler’s arguments on traveler’s tale.

Travel writing is nowadays considered as a multidisciplinary subject that has some association with history, ethnography, media, biography, and autobiography. According to the definition a traveler’s tale does not fall in any discipline. Moreover it does not follow any particular method. Most of the literature of travel writing is written for a particular discipline to add its field knowledge especially conducted by a particular academia so in this connection such books follow a particular procedure and method. Contrary to this traveler’s tale is mostly written for one’s personal interests.

In contrast, the occasion for writing ethnography is a contribution to knowledge for a discipline and the enhancement of a professional reputation. Unpublished field-work material acquires a mythic El Dorado quality of inaccessible information, irretrievable if the notes are lost or the anthropologist dies. Commercial success, however, is met with ambivalence 

A traveler’s tale relies mainly upon all stories and events of past and present without witnessing the factual evidence. It has nothing to do with facts but one’s personal interest and commercial value. On the other hand a travel book relies on facts and figures.

The subject of the travel book is the essence of “being there,” portraying place, people, events and the journey’s progress. Such writing is intensely sensory. 

In an Antique Land contains all the features and requirements as given by Wheeler in his definition of a Traveler’s Tale. It has enough evidence to support the ethnography, and enough evidence to support the history,

On certain level In an Antique Land looks like a Traveler’s tale because of some outside disciplinary evidence. For instance Ghosh describes his childhood days at length in the middle of the book without necessity and this element of personal memoir. This evidence suggests that he was not disciplinary bounded to write it according to the needs of the institution.

The traveler expresses judgments about phenomena that violate the values of traveler and audience and thus entertain, stimulate, and by contrast reaffirm those values 

Both the travel book and the ethnography use a moral discourse in their work while a traveler pursues his personal interests and tastes. He makes judgments whereas a travel book makes assessments about those judgments.

In this regard In an Antique land falls in between Travel book and traveler’s tale because the author of the book does not seem to make judgments in any of the situations. He makes his decisions reserved throughout the book.

Keeping in mind the element of time In an Antique land is ethnography because it has been written after and during a long period of time in the field. On the other hand travelers usually write about their personal experiences after returning home. They use such substance in their fiction writing.

The way a traveler reworks his material is for background in a future novel. By contrast, although the ethnographer may produce a dissertation or article soon after returning from the field, revision and extended publication may wait, while the heat cools and events fade. The immediacy drains away, leaving hard dry skeletons of experience. The analyst returns to his material periodically, working out the ethnography over many years but distancing himself as well. There are many reasons for the lengthening time between fieldwork and publication. One may be mistrust of first impressions as scientific knowledge. But even though the dispassionate ethnographer avoids committing impressions to the ethnography, they are cherished in personal memory and private story

In an Antique land in this sense once again violates the definition of Wheeler’s arguments because it is an asset of a discipline and it has been written in the supervision of that particular academia.

In short In an Antique Land is neither a traveler’s tale nor a travel boor nor a pure ethnography and history. It is a work having diverse characteristics and features.

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Posted by on March 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


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