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The World in PlayPortraits of a Victorian Concept$
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Matthew Kaiser

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780804776080

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804776080.001.0001

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A Joy on the Precipice of Death

A Joy on the Precipice of Death

Muir and Stevenson in California

Chapter:
(p.117) Chapter 4 A Joy on the Precipice of Death
Source:
The World in Play
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804776080.003.0005

This chapter examines the California travel narratives of Scottish free spirits Robert Louis Stevenson and John Muir, who set out to purge the Victorian cult of leisure, specifically, outdoorsy sportiness, of its proprietary egoism. They reimagine the Golden State, their adopted home, as a sublime Romantic playground where the middle-class male ego disintegrates in the face of destructive nature, and where competitive men are reborn as little cosmic boys. Stevenson and Muir's literary efforts to rebrand California as a postapocalyptic, neo-Caledonian playground, as a land of death and play, helped shape the fledgling state's image of itself as an otherworldly and exceptional place. Modern California is a product, in part, of the Victorian world in play.

Keywords:   travel narratives, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, Victorians, leisure, egoism, play

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