Virtual Voyages: Travel Writing and the Antipodes 1605-1837
'Virtual Voyages' is a fascinating account of the European discovery of the elusive 'great south land' told through the literature of 'imaginary voyages'. Written at the height of the era of European maritime exploration, these bizarre and captivating tales, with their wildly imaginative visions of antipodean inversion and strangeness, reveal a hidden history of attitudes to colonization. By exposing the relationship between myth and reality in the antipodes, this book casts new light on the power of fiction to influence history.
In the post-colonial studies field, books about travel writing and empire have tended to focus on the high period of nineteenth-century imperialism and on the colonial settings of Africa and India. This book offers a fresh perspective by focussing on the eighteenth century, and referring to the geographical region of Australia and the Pacific, which has had far less attention. The book also breaks new ground by being the first to approach the genre of the imaginary voyage from a post-colonial perspective.
In addition to the new insights into European colonialism that it offers, the book illustrates many broader themes in eighteenth-century history and thought. These include connections between the rise of science and modern imperialism, the development of narrative history and fiction and the influence of romanticism, the evolution of the early novel in Britain and France, and the role of mythology in the development of national identity.