Triptych: essays of place and travel
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The critical introduction outlines three perspectives on place identified by Robert Root—the insider, the outsider, and the traveler with a lens text. Analyzing how these perspectives function in travel narratives and essays of place reveals several considerations for writers of creative nonfiction, notably the way shifting from the perspective of an insider to the perspective of an outsider affects not only the amount of responsibility owed by the writer, but the degree to which the reader is included with the writer in the text. I look at how these shifts in perspective are achieved and negotiated in Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place and John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. Having examined the insider/outsider perspectives in these texts using the Root text as a lens, I proceed to investigate the third technique Root suggests, which itself involves using a lens text, where a writer of place travels to a site visited by an earlier writer and attempts to evoke both the actual landscape and the landscape within the earlier writer's texts. I conclude that a writer of nonfiction place narratives must locate herself or himself in the terrain of the material as well as in the physical terrain she or he attempts to write about. I then explain the structure and organization of the collection, as well as the rationale for the title, Triptych. I discuss several modes featured prominently in the essays, particularly narration, exposition, observational humor, wordplay and irony. I give examples of how Root's insider, outsider, and lens text traveler perspectives figure into the essays, and how my understanding of these perspectives was important to the writing of the essays and to informing the essays once they were written. The critical introduction ends with a brief explication of some of the essays in Triptych. Following the critical introduction is the text of my essay collection, Triptych. The collection is divided into three parts. Part One includes essays that explore airports, airline culture and protocols, tourism, and specific locales I visited while I was an airline employee. Part Two includes essays that explore my hometown and other locales in Missouri, where I returned after leaving the airline job, and also an essay about Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Part Three includes essays that meditate on the terrain of suburbia, domesticity and identity, and essays that return to provide closure to the airline and travel themes from Part One.
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