Research Stream


Jennifer Wright
The University of Western Australia

Jacqueline Van Gent
The University of Western Australia

Out of Place: Solitude and Social Isolation in Travel Writings (1639-1791)

This research focuses on 17th and 18th century travel writings. Using 'history of emotions' as a methodological framework, it explores expressions of solitude and isolation in these texts.


My current research in expressions of solitude and isolation in early modern British travel writing is utilising a methodology of historical emotions with an aim to uncover how individuals articulated their own inner experiences and related to a volatile external world.  My study seeks to uncover what emotions were associated with being alone, and how these emotions were expressed and recognised in travel writing. Solitude in the early modern period was bound up with emotions in a variety of ways. It was, for example, an ideal place for weeping and expressing forms of grief, but could also be a source of happiness or fear. Through a cultural study of these emotions, I intend to gain insight into the significance of isolation and solitude for these individuals, and the social world which informed and shaped their feelings. Closely analysing  my case studies, I will explore how emotions were intricately bound up with motion in the early modern period. Travel writing offers a unique framework for exploring expressions of solitude, as travelling is potentially both an intensely social and isolating activity, full of connection, detachment, wandering, and seclusion. I aim to illuminate the complex range of emotions we find within, thereby contributing to a historical understanding of solitude as well as raising new questions in the fields of life writing and travel writing.

Conference papers
''Out of Place': Solitude, Social Isolation, and Travel in Richard Norwood's Confessions', ANZAMEMS Tenth Biennial International Conference, July 2015, The University of Queensland

Image: Richard Wilson, Solitude, Digital Image Paul Melon Collection, c.1762-1770. © National Gallery of Art