At the beginning of the new millennium Europe has undergone significant changes in terms of the amplification of the European Union, introducing a common currency and redefining national images as part of the profound sociopolitical changes that ensued from these developments.
This thesis, a comparative cross-cultural study of how Spain was perceived by its European neighbours is an area of research of increasing relevance, as European nations still grapple with the need to better understand their cultural heritage and to overcome centuries-old prejudices. The thesis explores the image of Spain in European travel accounts from 1605 to 1875. It focuses on British, French and German sources and sheds light on the intercultural discourse that determined a European image of Spain.
It will be shown that most European travellers held a preconceived image of the Spanish nation, a vision they had formed from
their previous readings of both Spanish fiction and travel accounts. The influential role of Spanish Siglo de Oro literature will be demonstrated and it will emerge that the Picaro- novels of the Spanish Baroque had a profound influence on travellers' perceptions of Spain and its people. European travellers frequently saw Spain through the charismatic lenses of Cervantes' or Lope de Vega's medieval portraits of Spain. The 'authentic' Spanish world hardly ever emerged through a set of precast images that labeled this culture as markedly 'different' The ideological and literary preformation of travel discourse will be illustrated in a number of influential European travel accounts spanning almost three centuries.
This study begins with the account of French author Baronesse d'Aulnoy and her paradigmatic Relation du voyage en Espagne (1679) and concludes with lesser-known works of seven British women
travellers whose images of Spain serve to illustrate the idealised perceptions of Spain's culture during European Romanticism.
With Madame d'Aulnoy's account as its point of departure, the thesis will uncover a series of 'typical' Spanish images that emerged and profoundly influenced the way subsequent authors such as Richard Twiss, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Theophile Gautier, Maximilian I of Austria, Alexandre Dumas Sen. and Charles Davillier perceived Spain. It will become evident that many of d'Aulnoy's images underwent little or no change over the next two hundred years.
While early travellers like d'Aulnoy restricted their observations to the northern provinces of Spain, late 18th and 19th century travel authors increasingly discovered Spain's south. Here - in the Andalusian provinces the critics of Castile and Aragón experienced a uniquely different, 'magical' Spain: a country
steeped in a rich Moorish heritage, a desirable land of cultural and natural abundance.
With the 'romantic' discovery of Andalusia and its rich cultural heritage, the structure of Spanish travel accounts underwent paradigmatic changes. The hitherto negative image of Spain, known to us as the leyenda negra, was gradually replaced by the reshaped image of a Spanish 'exoticism' Andalusia became the epitomy of a desirable culture, a 'happy' region, a magical landscape with a mild climate and fertile gardens. The Moorish heritage, above all its famous Alhambra, encapsulated the essence of what European Romanticism defined as a desirable alter ego.
While initial travel accounts favoured a binary opposition between Castilian and Andalusian motifs, the representatives of an emerging European Romanticism saw Spain through an Andalusian prism. The emergence of the grand tour lead to a new
type of traveller. The primary concern of 'romantic' authors was to capture the essence of Spain's 'oriental' heritage. The aesthetic beauty of Moorish architecture stood at the forefront of a redefined image of Spain. It is during this period that European writers, most notably male authors, developed their 'romantic' ideology which saw Andalusia as a 'feminine' phenomenon. The exceptional natural beauty of Andalusia became a fitting backdrop to complement a series of genderised idées reçues. Ultimately, Andalusia became a cultural screen onto which many travel authors projected their culture-specific fantasies. The Andalusian world largely determined a European vision of a 'feminine' Spain.
The late nineteenth century eventually witnessed an increasingly static image of Spain. While the original images of European Romanticism undoubtedly have their aesthetic and ideological merits, they unintentionally laid major
foundations for a series of cultural stereotypes which culminated in a distorted image of Spain. Many of the stereotypes that were formulated by European travel authors eventually found their way into the glossy advertising campaigns that marketed Spain as Europe's main destination for an emerging mass tourism.