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Describing a Circumference: Jules Verne’s Guidebook for the Modern World

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Abstract

Returning to Seville in 1522, Antonio Pigafetta published the account of the world’s first successful circumnavigation. He inaugurated a tradition that links the journey with its written record. By the nineteenth century, such accounts served fewer practical purposes, and yet there was a surge in publications about the newly accessible trip. In Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne incorporated these real stories from the period while inspiring many others. It is at once an outlier—in so far as it is fiction—and at the very center of this travel writing tradition. Drawing on the work of Verne scholars, in this chapter I analyze some of the novel’s overlooked complexities and formal innovations. In a proto-modernist maneuver, for example, Verne embeds a range of documents: journals, timetables, and newspapers. He integrates features of the emerging guidebook—the Baedeker’s and Bradshaw’s—into the novel form, and so encourages his readers to fuse and confuse those genres. As the characters themselves read, write, and travel, Verne slyly inspires his readers to take on those other two related roles, that is, to set out on and to write about their own journeys.

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Fig. 2.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Don Quixote, ed. Fredson Bowers (San Diego: Harvest Books, 1983), 111.

  2. 2.

    Ilan Stavans provides the definitive account of the novel’s eccentric diffusion in Quixote: The Novel and the World (New York: Norton, 2015).

  3. 3.

    Cited in Dorian Lynskey, The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 (New York: Doubleday, 2019), 51–52.

  4. 4.

    Jonathan H. Grossman, “The character of a global transport infrastructure: Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days,” History and Technology 29, no. 3 (2013): 258; Michel Tournier, “Jules Verne and Around the World in Eighty Days,” trans. Julia Abramson, World Literature Today 76, no. 2 (2002): 107.

  5. 5.

    Timothy Unwin, Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), 214.

  6. 6.

    Andrew Martin, The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 11.

  7. 7.

    Ibid., 1.

  8. 8.

    Roland Barthes, The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 29.

  9. 9.

    Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985), 69.

  10. 10.

    Jesse Schotter, “‘Objects Worthy of Attention’: Modernism and the Travel Guide,” Modernism/modernity Print Plus 4, no. 2 (2019), accessed December 1, 2021, https://modernismmodernity.org/articles/objects-worthy.

  11. 11.

    Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, trans. William Butcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 226.

  12. 12.

    Cara Murray, Victorian Narrative Technologies in the Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2008), 157.

  13. 13.

    Ibid., 149.

  14. 14.

    Marie A. Belloc, “Jules Verne at Home,” The Strand 9 (February 1895): 208.

  15. 15.

    R. H. Sherard, “Jules Verne at Home: His Own Account of His Life and Work,” McClure’s 2, no. 2 (January 1894): 120–121.

  16. 16.

    Volker Dehs, “Un drame ignoré: l’odyssée du Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours,” Australian Journal of French Studies 42, no. 3 (2005): 332.

  17. 17.

    Barbara Black, A Room of His Own: A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2012), 92. William Perry Fogg, who published his around-the-world letters in the Cleveland Leader starting in 1870, is a likely source for the character’s surname.

  18. 18.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 7.

  19. 19.

    Ibid., 44–45.

  20. 20.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 157–158. This tactic can also be described as the classical device of apophasis.

  21. 21.

    Grossman, “The character of a global transport infrastructure,” 250.

  22. 22.

    George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004).

  23. 23.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 15.

  24. 24.

    Pierre-Jules Hetzel, “Publisher’s Announcement,” The Extraordinary Journeys: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, ed. William Butcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 359; Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 222.

  25. 25.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 70.

  26. 26.

    Butcher provides background on the historical Yusuf’Adil before adding, “No trace of the passage has been found, nor of the mysterious dedicatee” (Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 230). Recent scholars have proposed that Verne is (mis)citing the eighteenth-century Asaf-ud-Daula (Alex Kirstukas, “How Fogg Reached America: Two Early American Versions of Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours,” Verniana 11 [November 2019]: 63).

  27. 27.

    Butcher identifies passages that Verne cribbed from, for example, Francis Wey’s 1854 Les Anglais chez eux: Esquisses de moeurs et de voyage (“Introduction,” in Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, xv).

  28. 28.

    Martin, The Mask of the Prophet, 125.

  29. 29.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 141.

  30. 30.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 19.

  31. 31.

    Robert Rushing, “Traveling Detectives: The ‘Logic of Arrest’ and the Pleasures of (Avoiding) the Real,” Yale French Studies 108 (2005): 94.

  32. 32.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 20.

  33. 33.

    Jane Suzanne Carroll, “‘You Are Too Slow’: Time in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days,” Victorian Time: Technologies, Standardizations, Catastrophes, ed. Trish Ferguson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 90.

  34. 34.

    Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogical Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 84.

  35. 35.

    Murray, Victorian Narrative Technologies, 151.

  36. 36.

    Bakhtin, The Dialogical Imagination, 92.

  37. 37.

    Ibid., 255.

  38. 38.

    Rosalind Williams, The Triumph of Human Empire: Verne, Morris, and Stevenson at the End of the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 347.

  39. 39.

    Ibid., x.

  40. 40.

    Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill & Wang, 1972), 66.

  41. 41.

    Peter Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital: For a Philosophical Theory of Globalization, trans. Wieland Hoban (Cambridge: Polity, 2014), 176. Both Butcher and Ross Chambers notice this mention of Sydenham, where the Crystal Palace would have been visible from the train (Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 223; Ross Chambers, “Phileas Fogg’s Colonial Policy,” Kaleidoscope: Essays on Nineteenth Century French Literature in Honor of Thomas H. Goetz, eds. Graham Falconer and Mary Donaldson-Evans (Toronto: Centre d’Études Romantiques, 1996), 142).

  42. 42.

    Martin, The Mask of the Prophet, 6.

  43. 43.

    Peter W. Sinnema, “Around the World Without a Gaze: Englishness and the Press in Jules Verne,” Victorian Periodicals Review 36, no. 2 (2003): 137.

  44. 44.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 24.

  45. 45.

    Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Mariner, 2019), 183.

  46. 46.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 10.

  47. 47.

    Martin, The Mask of the Prophet, 30.

  48. 48.

    Ibid., 31.

  49. 49.

    Ibid., 141.

  50. 50.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 63.

  51. 51.

    Sinnema, “Around the World Without a Gaze,” 138.

  52. 52.

    Emily Ridge, Portable Modernisms: The Art of Travelling Light (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

  53. 53.

    Fogg refers to the book in a few instances when it would be less than helpful, for example, when trying to find a boat between Hong Kong and Yokohama (Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 94). Bradshaw had produced guides to India in the 1860s, but these volumes described a transportation network more conventional, and less exotic, than the characters’ elephant journey.

  54. 54.

    Suzanne Hobson, “‘Looking all lost towards a Cook’s guide for beauty’: the art of literature and the lessons of the guidebook in modernist writing,” Studies in Travel Writing 19, no. 1 (2015): 31.

  55. 55.

    Grossman, “The character of a global transport infrastructure,” 251.

  56. 56.

    Schotter, “‘Objects Worthy of Attention.’”

  57. 57.

    Bradshaw’s Monthly Continental Railway, Steam Transit, and General Guide, For Travellers Through Europe (London: W. J. Adams, 1866). Verne does not refer to a particular edition, and I have selected this 1866 edition as the date roughly lines up with other English publications Verne mentions, such as the Railway Pioneer discussed in the next chapter.

  58. 58.

    Alasdair Pettinger, “Guidance and Advice,” The Routledge Research Companion to Travel Writing, eds. Alasdair Pettinger and Tim Youngs (New York: Routledge, 2019), 144.

  59. 59.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 61, 72.

  60. 60.

    Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, trans. William Butcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 375.

  61. 61.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 2.

  62. 62.

    Chris Bongie, Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism, and the Fin de Siècle (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), 14.

  63. 63.

    Chambers, “Phileas Fogg’s Colonial Policy,” 142.

  64. 64.

    Belloc, “Jules Verne at Home,” 207.

  65. 65.

    Cited in Unwin, Jules Verne, 54.

  66. 66.

    Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” Youth, a Narrative, and Two Other Stories (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1902), 71.

  67. 67.

    Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues, 179.

  68. 68.

    Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital, 34.

  69. 69.

    Cited in Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880–1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 92.

  70. 70.

    Cited in Martin, The Mask of the Prophet, 52.

  71. 71.

    Martin, The Mask of the Prophet, 44.

  72. 72.

    Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital, 38.

  73. 73.

    The dash is conventional in the Bradshaw, though in Morning Chronicle “à” or “to” scores the space in between.

  74. 74.

    Caitlin Vandertop, “Travel Literature and the Infrastructural Unconscious,” New Directions in Travel Writing Studies, eds. Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

  75. 75.

    Grossman, “The character of a global transport infrastructure,” 248.

  76. 76.

    Archimedes’s relevance to the modern is addressed in Jocelyn Holland’s “Sailing Ships and Firm Ground: Archimedean Points and Platforms,” SubStance 43, no. 3 (2014); the other phrases here are associated with Thomas Nagel’s and Amanda Anderson’s respective books on the subject.

  77. 77.

    Harris Feinsod, “Vehicular Networks and the Modernist Seaways: Crane, Lorca, Novo, Hughes,” American Literary History 27, no. 4 (2015): 685.

  78. 78.

    Joyce Chaplin, Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012), 284. Thomas Cook recommended a condensed account of Magellan, and the Red Star Line promoted Mark Twain’s Following the Equator.

  79. 79.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 66.

  80. 80.

    Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), 165.

  81. 81.

    Belloc, “Jules Verne at Home,” 209.

  82. 82.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 97. The empire’s cultural uniformity draws wry commentary in many circumnavigation accounts. Rudyard Kipling, arriving in Singapore, relayed the remarks of a companion, “Am I travelling round the world to discover these people? … I’ve seen ‘em all before. There’s Captain Such-an-one and Colonel Such-another and Miss What’s-its-name as large as life and twice as pale” (From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches: Letters of Travel [London: Macmillan and Co., 1914], 64).

  83. 83.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 103.

  84. 84.

    Sinnema, “Around the World Without a Gaze,” 138.

  85. 85.

    Chambers, “Phileas Fogg’s Colonial Policy,” 141; Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 200.

  86. 86.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 133.

  87. 87.

    While the contemporary reader may assume the day was gained while crossing the International Date Line, that line was not yet in common use, and it still is a contested convention. The date “line” was often more a “point of correction”—usually a port—where travelers adjusted to local time.

  88. 88.

    In this watch-syncing scene, Verne shows time’s novelistic relativity by providing clock-time updates that are drastically disproportionate to what happens in the meantime: On page 11, three minutes pass between two lines of dialogue, and then a single minute passes over eight subsequent paragraphs. There are many in-built “problems” with the novel’s temporal bearings—which is very much the point.

  89. 89.

    The mid-nineteenth century featured debate and regional agreements about time zones, as standards became necessary due to railroad travel and the telegraph. The 1884 Conference on Universal Time in Washington, D.C., established a basic global consensus on time zone principles. France, however, objected to the Greenwich-centric lines and maintained a different time until 1912, when they hosted their own International Conference on Time (Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 13).

  90. 90.

    Helen Carr, “Modernism and Travel (1880–1940),” The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, eds. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 75.

  91. 91.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 131.

  92. 92.

    Mohit Chandna, Spatial Boundaries, Abounding Spaces: Colonial Borders in French and Francophone Literature and Film (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2021), 46. Chandna synthesizes some of Unwin’s own clue tracking.

  93. 93.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 137, 138.

  94. 94.

    John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); for an account of how the passport regime affected modernist authors see Bridget Chalk, Modernism and Mobility: The Passport and Cosmopolitan Experience (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

  95. 95.

    Nellie Bly, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings, ed. Jean Marie Lutes (New York: Penguin, 2014), 164.

  96. 96.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 33.

  97. 97.

    Ibid., 34.

  98. 98.

    Ibid., 226. In one of the two principal manuscripts this chart is even more elaborate, with columns for: month, date, day, scheduled arrival, actual arrival, days gained, days lost, days used, and remarks (226).

  99. 99.

    Chaplin, Round About the Earth, 50.

  100. 100.

    Credited to Verne for the final writing, the research was conducted in the National Library by Gabriel Marcel. See Michel de Certeau, “Writing the Sea: Jules Verne,” Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 137.

  101. 101.

    Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, 169. Further on, another layer: “The fiction is no longer the representation of reality but in the represented reality itself” (221).

  102. 102.

    Unwin, Jules Verne, 53.

  103. 103.

    Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, 163.

  104. 104.

    Ibid., 190.

  105. 105.

    Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment (New York: Routledge, 2011), 45.

  106. 106.

    Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Patrick Camiller (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 711.

  107. 107.

    Joyce Chaplin cites the Thomas Cook company’s numbers as a baseline for the period, and they took more than a thousand tourists ahead of the 1890s (Round About the Earth, 225). Beyond the nineteenth century, she estimates the numbers for this “longest tradition of human activity done on a planetary scale” in the hundreds of thousands (xiv).

  108. 108.

    Seth Stevenson, Grounded: A Down-to-Earth Journey Around the World (New York: Riverhead, 2010), 269.

  109. 109.

    Ibid.

  110. 110.

    Ibid., 270.

  111. 111.

    Cited in Williams, The Triumph of Human Empire, 90.

  112. 112.

    De Certeau, “Writing the Sea,” 138.

  113. 113.

    Chaplin, Round About the Earth, 16.

  114. 114.

    Jean Chesneaux, The Political and Social Ideas of Jules Verne, trans. Thomas Wikeley (London: Thames and Hudson), 78.

  115. 115.

    Cited in Chesneaux, The Political and Social Ideas, 84. Stephen Kern suggests that Bergson provided a direct “invitation” and “challenge” for Proust, in his reading of their overlapping ideas (The Culture of Time and Space, 46, 47).

  116. 116.

    Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, trans. John Sturrock (New York: Penguin, 1997), 79.

  117. 117.

    Hetzel, “Publisher’s Announcement,” 359.

  118. 118.

    Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, 48.

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Riordan, K. (2022). Describing a Circumference: Jules Verne’s Guidebook for the Modern World. In: Modernist Circumnavigations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-96241-8_2

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