Rambles in the Tuscan Fields: Janet Ross’s and Vernon Lee’s Sketches of Places
Between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, Tuscany was home to an intellectually vibrant Anglo-American community. Unsurprisingly, the region was the subject of a number of travelogues by English and American ‘expatriates’, that is, observing subjects whose gaze is simultaneously placed within and without the landscape and the culture that they explore. This article examines the work of British-born, expatriate writers Janet Ross and Vernon Lee, and argues that their travel memoirs represent Tuscan landscapes as a blotting paper conflating culture and the environment. Ross’s Italian Sketches (1887) and Old Florence and Modern Tuscany (1904) and Lee’sThe Enchanted Woods (1905) and The Tower of the Mirrors (1914) appropriate the conventions of visual and verbal sketches to blur the distinction between environment and landscape on the one hand, and between objective descriptions and subjective impressions on the other. In so doing, Ross’s andLee’s representations of Tuscan landscapes rest on an imbrication of visual and verbal elements that foreground the interplay of individual and cultural memory.
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