online Zoom lecture
The Eighteenth-Century Grand Tour and the Swiss Myth
In this presentation, I show how Grand Tour accounts of Switzerland, whether in the form of travelogues, poetry, or fiction, often use what historians have called the ‘Swiss myth’ in order to address some of the age’s most important political and social concerns. I first review the myth’s significance as a marker of popular sovereignty in a series of Whig texts from Joseph Addison to the Duchess of Devonshire, taking the opportunity to address the conventions of eighteenth-century travel writing as well. I then focus in my second part on two influential travelogues by William Coxe and Helen Maria Williams to illustrate how the Swiss myth was transformed into a more conservative symbol of customary freedoms and of social order under pressure of the French Revolution, and how British radicals sought to recuperate the myth in the name of French-style liberté. If the Revolution marked the end of the Grand Tour, I conclude, it also deflated the ideological significance of the Swiss myth, preparing the way for modern tourism in Switzerland.
If you would like to listen to this guest lecture, please contact Prof. Ina Habermann to obtain the necessary Zoom link.
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