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Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England.

Sara Warneke. (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 58.) Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995. xi + 327 pp. n.p.

Recent interest in travel literature has spawned a number of critical studies which examine the impact that encounters with the cultural Other had on a developing national consciousness. Sara Warneke's Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England focuses instead upon the anxiety created by the practice of educational travel within early modern English society Warneke identifies several negative images of the educational traveler within surviving literature of the period, arguing that they provide strong evidence of an increasing concern over the wisdom of such travel as it affected the national identity.

Warneke's text is structured in two parts. She first traces the roots of educational travel, suggesting that the medieval pilgrimage provided precedence for a practice which would continue well into the seventeenth century. Although criticism of travel did exist in medieval England, it was not until the late sixteenth century that these concerns became foregrounded. Warneke sees Roger Ascham as the pivotal figure in the developing debate, suggesting that his vigorous warning against Italian travel in The Scholemaster created the necessary environment for widespread criticism of the practice.

In part two, Warneke details unsavory images of the educational traveler which emerged after 1570 in popular literature, private correspondence and stage presentations. Images such as the devil incarnate, the morally corrupt youth, the fool and the liar became manifestations, she suggests, of a national concern over the merits of educational travel.

While Warneke's thesis is an intriguing one, I found her depictions of the differing images of the educational traveler tedious, even distracting. Indeed, one begins to wonder whether these images formed the basis for widespread cultural caricatures or whether they are categories Warneke forces for the sake of argument. Moreover, Warneke's careful division of the images ultimately fails to account for the all-too-evident overlap which occurs between categories. Although she does acknowledge that some overlap may occur, the structure of her book still rigidly insists on maintaining questionable distinctions. Perhaps even worse, this painstaking categorization is done at the expense of any real discussion of underlying social, religious and political issues which disturbed the public trust in early modern England.

Warneke's decision to exclude women from her discussion of educational travel seems an even more serious oversight in a study dealing with cultural anxiety. Because "they were rarities and their numbers formed only a tiny minority" (5), Warneke makes no more than a cursory mention of female travelers. Early modern English society's virtual exclusion of women from this activity seems, however, to say much about cultural fears. This is especially evident when one considers, as Warneke herself notes, that both medieval men and women traveled. One begins to wonder even more about her rationale when, in referring to English society in general, Warneke repeatedly uses the term "Englishmen." This is especially egregious given the fact that she includes letters of advice from mothers to sons.

Warneke's text makes reference to a rich assortment of primary source documents. My only concern here is about her overuse of the paraphrase in lieu of textual citation and analysis. Although Warneke's text eventually stalls on images of the educational traveler, it does point to the cultural struggle to locate a national identity within early modern England.
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Author:Chamberlain, Stephanie
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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