In romantic travel writing, topographical description is extended into subjective relations between landscape and the mind. This brings the space of nature into the realm of psychic space, where it is connected with the traveller’s mental fabrication of the natural world. The emphasis on interiority, especially in encounters with the natural sublime, contrasts with the empiricism of museum order and the distancing and framing of the picturesque. As the dominant mode of framing gives way to one of thresholds and infinitudes, a sense of the liminal opens the space of nature to the possibility of subjective disordering. The outward trajectory of romantic travel follows that of exploration and scenic tourism, but it is now paired with an inward journey which brings symbolism back into nature. A subjective and highly metaphorical nature is certainly a turn away from empiricism, yet it is more anthropocentric in the sense that nature becomes the mirror of the human mind. Romantic vision produces a space of nature primed for transcendental experience, a space for exploring the psychic boundaries between self and world. To further this, romantic travel seeks out landscapes suggestive of infinitudes, fluidity and sudden immensity as potential triggers for communication between the mind and nature. As the role of the persona changes from that of eyewitness to I-witness, travellers take on agency and narrative authority as they become writer-producers of ‘nature’ rather than tourist-consumers.
The Sublime 3.0: Fear & Awe is featured in The Wrong Biennale, pavilion 37, where we showcase how New [...]