The Serious Pleasures of Travel - 2011 M/MLA - Nov 3-6, St. Louis

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Midwest Modern Language Association (M/MLA)
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In the nineteenth century, travel became a serious business: with the explosion of travel guide books (Murray's and Baedeker's, most notably), Cook's excursion tours, organized itineraries through the P&O and other ocean liner companies, and other commercial efforts, the world began to open up for tourism is ways previously unknown. Where travel had in earlier centuries often been focused on the pleasure of "finishing" one's education through a Grand Tour, it now became accessible to many more people – at once a more playfully democratic pleasure and an enormously serious money-making venture for everyone from travel companies to local vendors at what we now think of a tourist traps. At the same time, however, pleasure-based travel—particularly in the sense of holiday-making—exploded onto the scene, allowing even working-class people the opportunity to seek out moments of playful respite from their daily lives.

This panel seeks to explore the intersections and/or contradictions between the seriousness of travel and its more playful aspects. Expensive and often predicated on colonial mindsets, presumed hierarchies, and privilege, traveling to foreign countries is also often about the playfulness of a short-term escape from one's everyday life.

To what extent are the serious and playful perspectives at odds with one another? How does one both take other cultures seriously, respectfully, and still achieve a playful holiday? Have the parameters of what travelers take seriously changed over time? Apart from the obvious differences in technology, how was travel in the nineteenth century different from travel today—and what do those differences tell us about how seriously people take their own efforts at pleasure? To what degree to different sorts of travelers engage critically with the playful aspects of travel, or insist on the play within its more serious encounters?

This panel welcomes papers that explore how travelers balance the things they take seriously with their efforts at respite. Topics ranging from the business of travel to travelers' motives to analysis of narratives of individual experience are welcome, as are papers that consider travel at various points throughout history.

Please send title and 250 word abstracts to Andrea Kaston Tange ( by June 3, 2011.

M/MLA will be in St. Louis, Nov 3-6, 2011. Conference website:

This CFP is for the Travel panel permanent session.