"Collateral damage in the war on travel writing": recovering reader responses to contemporary travel writing
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Scholarship of travel writing has seldom paid proper attention to questions of how and why readers engage with the genre – an oversight which, as Robin Jarvis (2016) has noted, at times leads to negative generalizations about travel writing’s presumed audience. This article examines this issue, and considers ways of recovering actual reader responses – through surveys of online reviews, and qualitative interviews. The article outlines findings from a structured group discussion with six regular readers of travel writing. Particular attention is paid to the way these readers respond to the possible inclusion of fictional elements in notionally non-fictional travel books, with the discussion revealing a broad conservatism on this point, and a general rejection of fictionalisation as a travel writing practice. This finding is contrasted with ideas voiced during the author’s interviews with notable travel writing practitioners, revealing a significant tension between the production and reception of the genre.
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