Exploring Aesthetics: The Picturesque Appropriation of Land in Journals of Australian Exploration


The journals of explorers are an important element in the cultural representation of the geography of Australia and of the nature of its inhabitants. But how does one deal with a literature of fact, where the daily entry might simply record the weather or the reading of the barometer? Bernard Smith, Robert Sellick, Robert Dixon, and Ross Gibson have all examined exploration journals in varying ways, and each at some point has looked at the aesthetic descriptions of the landscape. These are not the only moments in the journals that demand attention, but aesthetic description does stand out from the mass of detail in the journals. Bernard Smith's European Vision in the South Pacific was one of the first studies to take exploration literature seriously as a record of the interrelationship between aesthetic and scientific responses to the land. Robert Dixon's The Course of Empire looks at the influence of eighteenth-century aesthetics on explorers' topographical descriptions, while Ross Gibson's The Diminishing Paradise examines the influence of paradisal myths in the textual formation of the continent.

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Published 1 October 1992 in Volume 15 No. 4. Subjects: Australia - Literary portrayal, Australian landscape - Literary portrayal, Diaries & journals, Exploration & explorers of Australia (Land), Non fiction.

Cite as: Ryan, Simon. ‘Exploring Aesthetics: The Picturesque Appropriation of Land in Journals of Australian Exploration.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 15, no. 4, 1992, doi: 10.20314/als.9b5cf97b17.