In early nineteenth century, the American West was still full of unknown and unmapped terrain, teeming with undiscovered forms of life. John Kirk Townsend, a travel writer, naturalist-explorer, and nature writer in early-nineteenth-century America, traveled through the unexplored reaches of the American West. Penetrating into the unknown area of Western American continent, Townsend left a record of his scientific observation: “Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains, to the Columbia River, and a Visit to the Sandwich Islands, Chili, & c., with a Scientific Appendix” (1839). Written in the form of a travel diary, “Narrative of a Journey” is among the most charming early-nineteenth-century accounts of the landscapes and fauna in America’s western territories.
This study explores John Kirk Townsend's “Narrative of a Journey” in the context of early national American identity-building. It discusses Townsend’s engagement with the culture of American nationalism in early nineteenth century, both in literature and in science. Focusing on Townsend’s “Narrative of a Journey,” this study examines the following questions: In his travel journal how does Townsend build American national identity by documenting the plants, animals, and landscapes in early-nineteenth-century western territories? How does Townsend narrate his scientific discovery about the utterly unknown prairie, species, and desert wilderness of the American West to shape a uniquely national and cultural identity for early America?
|Keywords:||John Kirk Townsend, “Narrative of a Journey”, Science, Literature, Early National Identity-building, Natural History|
Associate Professor, The Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung, Taiwan