Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2006—2007 Forum on Travel
Professor, English, Bryn Mawr College
Travel and Travail: The Vagrant in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Culture
Nineteenth-century England is generally known as a glory age of travel. Exploration became tourism, and travel became a norm for the middle classes up. How was England to contend, then, with the inverse face of travel: the tramp? In researching the literary and cultural representations of this group which caused England muc national dismay rather than glory, Dr. Thomas will show how the tramp was repeatedly portrayed as perverse. In late 19th-century British law, the traveling poor were not afforded the status of a private life and were legally designated as fully public subjects. The only other group defined as subject to the law “whether in private or in public” were homosexuals. Why and how were the vagrant and the sexual deviant conflated through delineation of their public mobility?