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The Muse in Motion

Travel Literature through the Centuries

April 5, 2005 – July 17, 2005

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin embarks on a literary voyage with "The Muse in Motion: Travel Literature through the Centuries."

"The Muse in Motion" features historically important travel books representing a wide array of countries, periods and authors. It illustrates the universal currency of travel writing-its diverse purposes, its utility and its popular appeal.

Six chronological, geographical and thematic categories have been selected for display: the Renaissance Age of Exploration, the opening of the American West, the search for a North-West Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific, Americans in Europe (19th and 20th centuries), the Middle East and Oceania, and guide books.

Manuscripts, proof copies, photographs of authors and engraved scenes, portraits and maps will be on view with the printed volumes, which include such works as Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Discovery of Guiana" (1565), Sir John Franklin's "Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea" (1828), Captain James Cook's "Voyage to the Pacific Ocean" (1784) and the Illustrated Michelin Guide "Battle-Fields of the Marne, 1914" (1919). Materials were drawn from the Ransom Center's collections.

Dr. Joseph Moldenhauer, the Mody C. Boatright Regents Professor Emeritus in American and English Literature at The University of Texas at Austin, curated the exhibition. Moldenhauer views information provided by earlier travel writing as an essential preparation for the traveler.

"A few books are as important equipment as maps or nautical charts in many kinds of travel," Dr. Moldenhauer says. "A similar necessity for engaged travelers, even those not obligated to make formal reports, is the recording of their itineraries, observations and experiences. The tourist on a strenuous or eventful trip will feel impelled to record responses to new places and persons, and to unforeseen events. Since the inception of literature, such narratives of travel have been for readers a source of knowledge and imaginative pleasure. As the notoriously home-bound Emily Dickinson put it, 'There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away.'"