Why and how did people read literature on North America by explorers, travellers, emigrants, and tourists? This is the central question Robin Jarvis takes up as he addresses a significant gap in scholarship on travel writing: its contemporary reception. Referencing reviews in the periodical press, personal journals, letters, autobiographies, marginalia, and bibliographical evidence relating to the production, distribution, and reception of travel literature, Jarvis focuses especially on the ideas and perceptions of North America expressed by individuals who never visited the subcontinent. Among the issues Jarvis explores are what the British reception of North American travel narratives says about the ways in which the United States was imagined in the Romantic period; how poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, Robert Southey, and William Wordsworth, all voracious travel readers, incorporated their readings of travel books into their works; and the ways in which the reception of North American travel writing should be contextualized within the broader contours of British society and culture. Significantly, Jarvis differentiates between different communities of readers to show the extent to which class or professional status affected the way travel literature was read. Of equally crucial importance, he discusses the reception of travel literature on Canada and the Arctic as distinct from that on the United States. His book constitutes the most thorough exploration to date of the private reading experiences of travel literature during the Romantic period.
"We knew Romantic readers loved travel writing and were fascinated with North America; Jarvis's study gives us a window into how those readers - private individuals, reviewers, and Romantic poets - read the era's massive output of books on travel and exploration. His approach combines impressive research with insights from reader response theory and book history. Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel is an important contribution to studies of transatlantic Romanticism."
- Elizabeth A. Bohls, University of Oregon, USA
"With careful attention to various source materials including autobiography entries, marginalia, letters, diaries, and periodical reviews, Jarvis defines the readers of travel writing, not as passive receptors, but as active responders. He demonstrates that readers of travel writing did not merely regurgitate the imperialist, sexist, and/or racist attitudes of the authors they read, but were, in fact, diverse, opinionated, and discerning. Consequently, Romantic Readers revises the characterization of Romantic-era readers of travel writing, and broadens transatlantic Romanticism to include new histories of reading."
- Nineteenth-Century Studies
"Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel is a most welcome contribution to the critical discourse of transatlantic Romanticism, reader-response theory and the history of the book. Throughout this scholarly monograph Jarvis’s writing is refreshingly lucid, engaging, forthright and uncluttered by jargon."
- Literature and History
"Jarvis's study is not only valuable in that it provides a unique investigation of individual responses to travel literature, but because the methodology and the results raise important questions about how we come to understand the role of reading and writing, print and publishing in the formation of identity and community."
"Jarvis’s work excels by highlighting an area of criticism that necessitates further exploration. (…) Ultimately, Romantic Readers demonstrates that in examining reader responses to travel literature, critics can begin to craft a transnational history of reading in the Romantic era."
- Taylor Murphy, Florida State University, USA