Book cover image for: Writing Geographical Exploration: Thomas James and the Northwest Passage, 1631-33

Writing Geographical Exploration: Thomas James and the Northwest Passage, 1631-33

Wayne K. D. Davies

$49.95 CAD / $56.95 USD

344 pages, 15 illustrations

8 x 10 inches

978-1-55238-062-8 (Hardback)

978-1-55238-481-7 (Institutional PDF)

March 2004

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About the Book

Writing Geographical Exploration summarizes the various factors that influence the writing and interpretation of exploration narratives, demonstrating the limitations of the assumption that there is a direct relationship between what the explorer saw and what the text describes. Davies offers a revisionist evaluation of Captain Thomas James, who spent eighteen months in search of the Northwest Passage in the 1630s, to illustrate how modern textual analysis can enrich the appreciation of a traveller’s account.

Though James’s work has been dismissed in the modern period, his work was highly regarded in previous centuries by scientist Robert Boyle and poet Samuel Coleridge. James was not a first-rank explorer, but he was an able navigator and leader, a perceptive scientific observer, and a master author who produced a thrilling tale of adventure that should occupy a more prominent place in exploration writing and history, literary theory, and post-modern geography.

Wayne Davies has written over a hundred academic essays and authored or edited nine books in a wide variety of research areas, including urban geography and the methods of geography. He is professor emeritus in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary.

Praise for Writing Geographical Exploration:

An ambitious book . . . It addresses important, even if fashionable, issues that concern all whose interest or specialism takes them into engaging with accounts of travel modern or ancient.

—C.W.R.D. Moseley, Polar Record

Table of Contents

Figures and Tables

Captain Thomas James: The Case for Re-Assessment

Traditional Stories of Explanation
James and the Discovery of Hudson Bay
James and the Canadian Literature
James and the Anglo-Welsh Tradition
Subsequent Organizations

Part A: Interpreting Exploration Narratives

Exploration Writing and Literary Concepts

Exploration, Travel and Literature
Divergence of Exploration Writing and Literature
The Power of Literal Advantage of Writing Cultures
Alternative Functions of Exploration Writing

Interpreting Explorations: The Three Stages of Construction

Cognitive Construction
The Construction of Narrative
The Readership Construction
Themes in Exploration Literature

Part B: Evaluating the Work of Captain Thomas James

The Lure of the Northwest Passage: Preparation and Journey

Previous Welsh Connections
The Threat of a London Venture
James’s Early Life
James’s Voyages

Locational Identifications and Cognitio

Establishing Location
Mapping and the Questions of the Northwest Passage
Labelling the Land
Experiencing the Land
Identifying and Measuring Environmental Conditions

Interpretation and Representation

Purpose of Narrative
Power Relationships
Organization and Style
Aesthetics and Environmental Processes
Representations of Aboriginal People

Instrumental Functions

Subsequent Utility
Changing Purpose: From Journey to Narrative
Stimulation of Others
Cultural Self-Reflection
Personal Results: James’s Later Life

A Passage Not Found: Passages Created

James and his Critics
Exploration and Scientific Achievements