The Narrative of Wales: From Blind Spot to Blank Canvas
The concluding chapter draws together the book’s key themes, focusing on the various prisms – Celtic, Breton, English, sublime, Romantic, industrial, modern, touristic, colonial – through which Wales has been viewed. These distorting prisms are shown always to reflect the home culture, whether it be France’s need to reconnect with her Celtic ancestry following the trauma of Revolution, or the German-speaking lands’ anxieties about their own slow democratic and industrial advance. The importance of Wales as a haven constitutes a significant trope in Continental travel writing from the French Revolution and 1848, to the First World War, which brought thousands of Belgians to Wales, the Spanish civil war, and Nazi-occupied Europe. Over the centuries Wales is discovered, lost and rediscovered, shifting in and out of view, from blind spot to blank canvas. It is only really in the twentieth century that Wales is treated on its own terms in travel writing, beginning with the French narratives of the 1904-05 religious revival. The book ends by stressing the value of travel writing and multilingual research as a means to interrogate centre-periphery and, importantly periphery-periphery relations.
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