The Production of Paradise. The role of travel literature in the discursive construction of the South Sea as utopia on Earth
This project sets out to understand how travel literature translates and mediates accounts from and of the world – from one local setting to another, and over time. It is, more specifically, concerned with Western travel writers’ persistent and persuasive accounts of life in the South Seas as ‘Paradise on Earth’. For 250 years, Western travel writers have travelled to the South Seas, found it to be ‘Paradise’ and written home about it. With this study of both a genre and a profession I seek to understand how the discourse of ‘Paradise on Earth’ is constructed and well as what makes it so resilient.
Travel writing is one of the world’s oldest and most universal forms of literature. Travel writing is here conceptualized as a literary genre and practice in which writers produce texts in an ongoing translation of and negotiation between cosmopolitanism and vernacularism. By analyzing travel literature, past and present, and by ethnographic investigation into the production of contemporary travel literature, on the Pacific region, the study explores the formation and continuity of the notion of the tropical islands of the South Seas as an actually existing utopia. The project will contribute to a debate on exoticism and domination through textual (mis)representation and the proposed study sets out to examine the most romanticized area on earth – the South Seas.