Examples from the Art of Travel

Alex Watson
Note by Alex Watson, updated more than 1 year ago
Alex Watson
Created by Alex Watson about 5 years ago
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Higher School Certificate English (Representations of Landscapes) Note on Examples from the Art of Travel, created by Alex Watson on 03/08/2016.

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IDENTITYChapter 2: On Travelling Places 'it is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves... the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the people we are in ordinary life' Chapter 3: On the ExoticFlaubert's identity affected his experience of Egypt - see: belongingChapter 5: On City and Country De Botton contrasts the city and country, suggesting that the change in environment can shift one's mentality “…our identities are to a greater or lesser extent malleable; that we change according to whom and sometime what- we are with.” “Natural scenes have the power to suggest certain values to us- oak dignity, pines resolution, lakes calm – and in unobtrusive ways may therefore act as inspirations to virtue” De Botton juxtaposes the two images of the city and country- that of Ambleside suggests a culture of commercialism, whereas the valley landscape is a picture of serenity and virtues unlike the poor virtues found in the city, the oak trees were 'an image of ordered complexity... of patience' and 'showing no ill-temper' - personification suggests that these qualities are imparted on those in their presence Wordsworth identified with nature, finding belonging through shared values - see: belonging

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BELONGINGChapter 2: On Travelling Places De Botton finds belonging in the shared experiences suggested by transient places of travel, as does the woman in 'Compartment Car C' the use of alliteration and sensory detail emphasize the monotony of the service station, which enable De Botton to identify with it - on a flat, featureless expanse of country stands a singe-storey, glass and red-brick service station': 'it smelt of frying oil and lemon-scented floor polish, the food was glutinous and the tables were dotted with islands of dried ketchup' the places in Hopper's paintings are described as 'sanctuaries' , evoking a feeling of safety and comfort a simile describes the service station as 'like a lighthouse at the edge of the ocean', emphasizing the idea of it as a place of sanctuary and pleasant loneliness Chapter 3: On the Exotic For Gustave Flaubert, the Orient was an image of all the values he cherished, but found lacking in his French homeland - it became ‘a vague synonym for all that was good’ 'what we find exotic abroad might be what we hunger for in vain at home' He felt at home in the chaos because of his 'belief that life is fundamentally chaotic' and empasised this in his writing through alliteration ("a chaos of colours" "black goats bleating") and simile ("guttural intonations that sound like the cries of wild beasts") He welcomed its 'readiness to accept life's duality', unlike the bourgeois French who hid away things considered impure or indecent He identified with the 'silent strength and humility' of the camel,which appeared to be shared by Egypt's people and contrasted with the 'bourgeois arrogance' he experienced at home Chapter 5: On City and Country Wordsworth experienced belonging in the country through shared values He found in nature “a sure safeguard and defence against the weight of the meanness, selfish cares, coarse manners, (and) vulgar passions” found in the city – in daffodils he saw a “meek nature”, and animals were ‘paragons of stoicism’ de Botton contrasts the city of Ambleside and the valley in the Lake District: Ambleside has the 'bustle of a metropolis' and is described in mainly negative terms - noisy, full, at the inn the beds were narrow with stained blankets - in the valley 'the atmosphere was transformed' - 'fields so appetizing', 'noble' oaks with 'almost perfect... rich green foilage'

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EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTSChapter 1: On Anticipation 'any sadness I might have felt... seemed to find ready encouragement' in the bad weather the use of emotive language to describe language reflects his emotional state - confused, relentless, ominous, desolate 'might be influenced by the simplest and most un-examined images of happiness' after a quarrel with his girlfriend, the authors mood 'refused to be lifted by any external prop' a photograph of a couple on an empty, sunny beach, dwarfed by palm trees suggests perfect tranquility, thus contrasting the experiences of de Botton and M 'our capacity to draw happiness from aesthetic objects or material goods in fact seems critically dependent' on our emotions 'Nature was at her most benevolent' - the personification of nature emphasizes its beauty to the author, but this is later contrasted with the lack of effect this has on his emotions 'the appearance of our dwellings can never n their own underwrite our joy nor condemn us to misery' travel is a displacement activity which enabled one to temporarily escape from everyday life Chapter 2: On Travelling Places the author explores the way that our minds can be refreshed by new places, or produce great thoughts when thinking is not their only agenda 'Journeys are the midwives of thought' as 'large thoughts at times (require) large views, new thoughts new places' the 'eternal mobility' of the plane offers 'an imaginative counterweight to feelings of stagnation and confinement' - 'the clouds usher in tranquility. Below us are enemies and colleagues, the sites of our terrors and our griefs' the author is thankful for the lonely atmosphere of the service station, as he does not have to 'suffer from a contrast between my mood and the environment;' loneliness 'seemed to be acknowledged and brutally celebrated by the architecture and lighting' de Botton supports this argument through interxtual use of the paintings of Edward Hopper 'Automat' is described as a 'picture of sadness' in which the woman's bleak surroundings appear to invite and accept her loneliness his paintings depicted bleakness in a way which 'allowed their viewers to witness an echo of their own grief and thereby feel less personally persecuted and beset by it' Charles Baudelaire wrote that 'it always seems to me that I'll be well where I am not' but found that 'we were often bored, just as we are here' he used a metaphor to describe life as 'a hospital in which every patient is obsessed with changing beds.'' de Botton identifies with Baudelaire in that he was drawn to 'transient places of travel' Baudelaire used personification to explore the connection between travel and emotions, describing a ship as 'a vast, immense, complicated and agile create, an animal full of suffering and heaving all the sighs and ambitions of humanity'' Chapter 6: On the Sublime 'I set out for the desert in order to be made to feel small'... which is 'usually unpleasant' a sublime place was not one with any particular characteristics but which had power to 'arouse the mind to sublimity' Botton described it as 'human weakness in the face of the strength, age and size of the universe' sublime places remind us of the 'familiar inadequacy... that the universe is greater than we are' in a more helpful way than we are reminded of this in our daily lives even in secular minds, sublime landscapes '(bring) us to accept without bitterness or lamentation the obstacles we cannot overcome' he makes biblical allusion to Job, when God answers Jobs cries by bidding him to contemplate the landscape - he discerns that things go wrong and we don't understand them because the universe is bigger than we are, and that this message is found in sublime landscapes extended metaphor of dust symbolising human mortality, the transient nature of our lives - which sublime landscapes make us aware of Chapter 7: On Eye-Opening Art he 'lacked the energy' at the time to register the beauty he later recognised - in this way, his feelings informed his experience 'we overlook certain places because nothing has ever prompted us to conceive of them as worthy of appreciation, or because some unfortunate but stray association has turned us against them' Chapter 8: On Possessing Beautyhis use of psychological language to describe the effect of nature suggests that we find places beautiful which 'embody a value or mood of importance to us' - "the grass seemed expansive, the earth timid'' Chapter 9: On Habit London reminded him of 'the indifference of the world to any of the events unfolding in the lives of its inhabitants' - Botton revisits his earlier point, that landscape may exacerbate or lessen our current mood, but does not entirely change it de Botton is condemned to return to the place which motivated his escape in the first place, and it is unchanged traveling around his neighborhood with this mindset, the landscape 'began to collect ideas' - by observing his surroundings, Botton found himself intellectually stimulated by them 'our responses to the world are crucially moulded by whom we are with' - being alone, Botton found the freedom to áct a little weirdly', to experience the landscape in an authentic way, untempered by the expectations or inhibitions of others 'the city had stubbornly refused to change'; 'the home town was unimpressed' with his travels - by imbuing his home town with human qualities through personification, Botton creates an impression of active hostility which works against him on his return home

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ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRAVELChapter 2: On Travelling PlacesDe Botton suggests that what is considered a valuable travel destination is often determined and dictated to us by others.Chapter 7: On Eye-Opening Art 'we overlook certain places because nothing has ever prompted us to conceive of them as worthy of appreciation, or because some unfortunate but stray association has turned us against them' it is by noticing finer details such as the 'shade of blue' of the sky or the silver in the leaves of olive trees' that we appreciate landscapes - features which we are often made aware of through art 'a successful work will draw out the features capable of exciting a sense of beauty and inerest in the spectator' 'my own eyes grew attuned to see around me the colours that had dominated Van Gogh's canvases' "how vain painting is, exciting admiration by its resemblance to things of which we do not admire the originals" - Pascal; Botton admits that he had not much admired Provence before immersing himself in Van Gogh's work 'our capacity to appreciate can be transferred from art to the world' art does not initself create enthusiasm but 'contributes to enthusiasm and guides us to be more conscious of feelings' towards a place - in this, art can affect where we choose to travel by describing the olive trees which he previously dismissed in similes and metaphors - 'the trees resemble tridents... flung from a great height', the branches are compared to 'flexed arms ready to hit out' - Botton demonstrates how Van Gough's paintings revealed the hidden qualities of the olive trees Cypresses is juxtaposed with a photograph of a cypress - the painting makes the cypress in the photo take on 'the appearance of a flame flickering nervously in the wind' - the same is done with Olive Grove Chapter 8: On Possessing Beauty 'a dominant impulse on encountering beauty is the desire to hold on to it: to possess it and give it weight in our lives' the desire to possess beauty and cling to the experiences of landscapes in fact distracts from them De Botton suggests that it is more valuable to recreate the landscape through art, as this forces careful observance and fosters deeper understanding “Rather than using photography as a supplement to active, conscious seeing, they used it as an alternative, paying-less-attention to the world than they had done previously from a faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it” 'beauty is fugitive' as it is often found in places we will never return - we can attempt to hold onto it by taking a photograph, buying a souvenir, or imparting ourselves on it somehow Ruskin illustrates the beauty that can be found in things that many do not see it in, such as the weather, through the use of imagery and alliteration - 'the narrow sunbeam that came out of the south, and smote upon their summits until they melted and mouldered away' Chapter 9: On Habit de Botton addresses the “after” of travel, when we return to our everyday places and the mundaneness of ordinary life - he explores the state of disenchantment which we my find ourselves in, arguing that we tend to approach such places with the attitude that we already know everything about it, due to a perceived idea of familiarity. our connection to landscape is inevitably intertwined with our attitudes 'the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependant more on the mindset with which we travel', namely receptivity at home 'we have become habituated and therefore blind' - Botton suggests that we expect our cities to be boring, and so they become so because we fail to look De Maistre grieves that so few notice the 'sublime spectacle which the sky lays on uselessly for dozing humanity' - the alliteration draws attention to that which is being missed, and emphasises its beauty "The sole cause of a man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room" (Pascal, Pensées) - this bold claim summarises the main point of this chapter and, in fact, the whole book; for Botton suggests that the experiences of travel can be experienced in a fulfilling way at home the writings of de Maistre are used intertextually

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IMAGINED LANDSCAPESChapter 1: On Anticipation De Botton suggests that there is value in imagined landscapes, independent of the reality 'the reality of travel is not what we anticipate' , it is not disappointing, but 'primarily different' Botton's anticipation of Barbados had been a few mental images - on arrival, he found that the airport and everything else that was not in his images 'made it strangely harder to see the Barbados I had come to find' -- a sense of incongruity 'a range of things insisted that they too deserved to be included within the fold f the word Barbados' - personifcation suggests that these banal details frced themselves upon him he contrasts the simplistic, idealistic depiction of Barbados in the pamphlet - 'palm trees, clear skies and white beaches' - with the reality - 'a confusion of taxi drivers and tour guides' 'what we have come to see is always diluted in what we could see anywhere' 'I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island' - the reality of our bodies and minds tends to threaten the experience we have anticipated the contentment and happiness we anticipate 'must be a brief... haphazard phenomenon' 'there is a purity both in the remembered and in the anticipated visions of a place' as they are unhindered by the reality of thoughts and feelings 'we may best be able to inhabit a place when we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there' art encourages us 'to forget how much there is in the world besides that which we anticipate' as they share the same 'process of simplification or selection' 'elements may be easier to experience in art and in anticipation than in reality' as they 'omit and compress... thus lend to life a vividness and coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present' memory is a similar 'instrument of simplification and selection' De Botton metaphorically compares the present to a long-winded film, and memory and anticipation to the 'select photographic highlights' Des Essenties, from JK Huysman's 'A Rebours', anticipated Holland to resemble art, but was disappointed when he felt 'more in Holland' when looking at paintings of it similes and descriptive imagery used to describe the tavern visited by Des Essenties - 'spread with hams as brown as violins and lobsters the colour of red lead' emphasises the vividness of the experience

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