“A good considerable country town”: Visions of a Greek village in European travel narratives

Leslie Glickman Kaplan, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines the way in which the ideas and perceptions of foreign visitors shape the identity of a place. It takes as its subject travel accounts written by European visitors to the Corinthia in Greece in the period between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These travelers looked at places they visited with certain expectations and ways of valuing them based on the worldview of their home culture. Their expectations were closely tied to popular theories of cultural identity, including romantic nationalism, evolutionary understandings of culture and an incipient colonialism. This study explores the evidence for different perspectives, or “gazes”, used to interpret these experiences. Special attention is paid to the impact those gazes have had on the development of a particular village, Ancient Corinth. The evidence for the gazes is found through an exploration of over one hundred fifty travel accounts published by European travelers who visited Greece after the Ottoman conquest (1453), though most of the extant accounts date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. In addition to an overview of trends and important figures in the genre of travel-writing about Greece as a whole, the study focuses especially on justifications for publishing found in prefaces, observations about “the Greek character,” opinions about the viability of a Greek state, and finally, an analysis of images and detailed narrative descriptions of Corinth. To explore the effect that those gazes have had on the development of Corinth, a contrast is set up with the experience during the same period of a neighboring village, Hexamilia. Various types of evidence are used, including historical documents, on-site observation, and interviews with current inhabitants, to trace the impact of those gazes in Corinth and Hexamilia in the present day. The study concludes that perceptions of cultural identity (particularly versions of romantic nationalism) have been shaped by the experiences of travelers, and that the gazes of the travelers represent a major factor that has influenced the development of Corinth to the present day.

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Recommended Citation

Kaplan, Leslie Glickman, "“A good considerable country town”: Visions of a Greek village in European travel narratives" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3031678.