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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019



Keywords for Travel Writing Studies: A Critical Glossary is a collaborative and crossdisciplinary response to what might be described as the ‘mobility turn’ in the Arts and Humanities (Greenblatt 2010), as well as in the social sciences more generally (Sheller 2011). In recent decades, the study of travel has become increasingly recognized as a serious area of enquiry; the study of travel writing itself, while still relatively young, is also now fully acknowledged as a multidisciplinary critical practice in its own right. This volume suggests that embracing the concept of the keyword is a way of federating the diverse areas that the study of travel writing encompasses, providing a common lexicon while at the same time inviting a differential approach to the ways in which particular terms are variously deployed. When Raymond Williams first published his seminal work Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society in 1976, he stressed that it was ‘not a dictionary or glossary of a particular academic subject’. Instead, he described the intention to create ‘the record of an inquiry into a vocabulary: a shared body of words and meanings in our most general discussions, in English, of the practices and institutions which we group as culture and society’ (Williams 1988 [1976], 15; emphases in the original). We have approached our own keywords project in very much the same way. Now that travel writing studies has reached a certain stage of disciplinary maturity, it seemed timely to reflect on the shared critical vocabulary that has emerged and is being used, adapted and reconsidered across a number of disciplines. Rather than ‘defining’ terms in any straightforward sense, what we and our contributors hope to do is to foster thoughtful consideration of the language and terminology we use collectively and in a variety of different contexts to express our ideas about the ways in which travellers write about their journeys.

We consider travel writing in its widest senses to designate the textual recording of a variety of practices of mobility, spontaneously in the field or retrospectively on the traveller's return, and as a form that lays bare the ways in which culture and cultural identities are fundamentally constituted by mobility (Clifford 1986, 96).