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Ever since human beings first travelled, cities have constituted important material and literary destinations. While the city has formed a key theme for scholars of literary fiction, travellers’ writings on the western city have been somewhat neglected by travel studies. However, travel writing with its attention to difference provides a rich source for the study of representational strategies and tactics in modern urban space. Beginning at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and ending up in the skyscrapers of NYC, this book analyses the writings of lesser-known as well as canonical French travel writers, including Paul Morand, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Perec and Jean Baudrillard. Tracing the work of these writers in London and New York from 1851 to the 1980s, it contributes to a body of work that analyses travel and travel writing beyond the Anglophone context, and engages in questions pertaining to the French imagination of possible meanings for life in the modern city. One of the central tenets of the book is that, in the way its spaces are planned, encountered and represented, the city is active in formulating identities, while the book’s guiding question is how analysis of French travel writing allows us to explore the multiplicity of urban modernities by engaging with the historical and cultural differences internal to ‘the West’. Bringing together the strands of theory, context and poetic analysis, the book treats of travel writing as a spatial practice, one that engages representations of urban space in questions of nationality, power and legibility. In this way, it opens avenues for the exploration of urban modernity from a position of alterity, whereby alternative imaginative geographies of the city come into view.

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