The Political Pilgrim: William Lithgow of Lanark on God and Country

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Davis, Philip Anthony
identity; martyr; print culture; Scotland; seventeenth century; travel literature
thesis / dissertation description
Travel literature has been understood to comment on the expectations and impressions of the traveler as they encountered foreign spaces, customs, and people. There has been an unspoken understanding, at best, that travelers who wrote their tales used these foreign spaces to engage in debates that were meaningful to their domestic audience. However, the author has been central to much of the analysis, disconnecting travel literature from other linguistic exercises that more directly offered observations that were directly rooted in domestic culture. Author-centered analysis isolates the traveler from the wider world in which they engaged. It also ignores the other voices that are inherent in the works.As the disparate kingdoms of England and Scotland began their process of unification under King James VI and I, society did not emerge as distinctly novel in a short period of time. Religious beliefs inherited from a unified Christian Europe helped travelers engage with other confessions. They also provided models to help travelers both understand their experiences and relate them to their readers. Powerful Christian ideas, such as martyrdom, pilgrimage, and shared devotion, infused the thoughts of travelers, readers, and those who brought the two together in the marketplace.The travel works relating William Lithgow's adventures at the dawn of the seventeenth century provide an exceptional opportunity to glimpse the development of a traveler's identity. They also provide the opportunity to place the various editions within the context of his domestic culture, as he was re-inculcated before once again debarking on new adventures. As England and Scotland fluctuated between a state of stronger alliance and greater distance, Lithgow became a subtle example of political and religious unity. Understanding that early modern Europeans, in general, travelers more specifically required the ability to easily adopt variant persona are critical to recognizing the protagonist of an adventure tale as a political partisan and tolerant zealot.