Waiting and Learning to See: The Travel Essays of Elizabeth Taylor from her Stays in the Faroe Islands between 1895 and 1919

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The article discusses the travel essays written by Elizabeth Taylor (1856-1932) from her stays in the Faroe Islands between 1895 and 1919. A comparative perspective on perceptions of the Faroe Islands and Iceland in travel writing and literature in general through the 19th and 20th centuries serves as a starting point and background. While many travelers only visited the Faroe Islands on their way to Iceland or as a part of a tour in the North, Elizabeth Taylor choose to stay. In a letter, she declared that she did not want to write ‘between steamers’, i.e. go ashore, move around in a hurry and catch the next boat (“steamer”) heading north or south. Applying concepts from the Swedish scholar Arne Melberg to her travel essays, this makes her a traveler interested in meeting rather than mapping, a traveling writer learning to see rather than looking for sights.

In a broader contemporary context, the content of her essays and her style of writing corresponds very well to Ursula Le K. Guin’s distinction between the spear and the basket in the Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (1986). Using the spear and the basket as metaphors, Le Guin refers to two different ways of conceiving and telling stories about the world and human history, either stories about forcing energy out, conquering, or stories about collecting.

Publishing mostly in American magazines, Elizabeth Taylor writes about the heroic with distance and irony. Her essays are entertaining and informative without the discourse of exploration and the spectacular that characterized so many narratives from travels to the North at that time. Looking for ordinary things, she is listening, seeing and waiting
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArctic Humanities
Place of PublicationLeiden (Netherlands)
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Publication statusSubmitted - 2023

Publication series

NameArctic Humanities
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
ISSN (Print)2772-9621


  • Travel Writing
  • Arctic
  • Faroe Islands
  • Ursula Le Guin


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