The Aura of Place: Poetic Form and the Protestant Cemetery in Rome

  • Alison Chapman
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


Iconic European locations have a heavy pull on the travel imaginary in the Victorian period, especially in France and Italy, the conventional destinations after the Napoleonic Wars and following the legacy of the Grand Tour.1 Travelogues, Murray’s ‘Handbooks for Travellers’ series, poetry about travel, and fiction based in Europe return repeatedly to the same places: specific locations such as the Louvre, the Paris morgue, the Colosseum, St Peter’s in Rome, the Uffizi, as well as generic spaces such as the artist’s cafe, the studio and the famous author’s house.2 The popular travel spots, frequently figured in travel writing as ‘lions’ to be hunted down and captured, signify a European network of representational space for the traveller.3 These depictions of key travel locations invest their spaces with both the power of acculturation and also a transcendent quality, an aura of place as opposed to a genius loci, which creates a tension between the specificity of the phenomenological, experiential location and the noumenal quality of place.4 Travel writing is organised around key sites for the traveller that offer a map of Western Europe based on a series of common highlights: a narratology of place. This geo-literary network plots for the Victorian reader the ‘atlas’ of Europe, what Franco Moretti terms an ‘abstract geometry’, as a function of historical and social relations.5 The recent turn to spatial studies in the humanities, exemplified by Moretti’s experimental mapping of the nineteenth-century European novel, largely ignores poetry, despite Christopher Kierstead’s call for a new atlas of Victorian poetry.6 But Victorian topographical poems suggest that the relationship between genre formation and geography is also a relationship between


Burial Ground Cultural Power Beat Track English Poet Literary Tourism 
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Notes and references

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© Alison Chapman 2016

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  • Alison Chapman

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