Holidays on Ice: William Morris and Lavinia Greenlaw in Iceland
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Going away is an essential part of our conception of holidays, which is why Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland (2011) can help inform a definition of holiday poetics. The book combines large portions of William Morris’s Icelandic Journals, in particular from the first part which documents his 1871 journey to Iceland, with commentaries of Morris’s text by contemporary British poet Lavinia Greenlaw. The work as a whole draws attention to in-betweenness as a central characteristic of holiday writing. Both texts bring to the fore the unstable situation of the holidaymaker who has to find their place away from home while knowing this displacement to be only temporary. In-betweenness is also to be found in how Morris and Greenlaw recount the events of the journey. Calling it an adventure enables Morris to alternate between the sublime and the heroicomical, while Greenlaw oscillates between the universal and the particular in the psychological analysis of Morris’s experience. Genre is also considered: journal writing was not a common practice of Morris’s, and it is here presented as a freer form of expression than either letter or poetry writing. The generic affiliation of Greenlaw’s text is debated as well, given that it is published as non-fiction but is often more akin to free verse. Ultimately, a distinction between travel writing and holiday writing is attempted.
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