“A royal holiday beyond the broad ocean”: Visual Humor and Parodic Reflections in Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad


  • Francesca Razzi Università “G. d’Annunzio” di Chieti-Pescara




American Literature, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Travel Writing, Sea Literature, Parody


Halfway between fiction and travel writing, The Innocents Abroad (1869) chronicles Mark Twain’s own experience as a tourist through Europe. As previous scholarship has widely underlined, Twain’s persona of the naïve American traveler casts an ironic outlook on the traditional rhetoric characterizing nineteenth-century literary narratives and travelogues about the European Grand Tour. In this context, the manifold forms of water in The Innocents Abroad represent a key feature of Twain’s parodic reinvention of the cultural myth connected to the Old World. Although it may be perceived as a plain literary background, the function of water addresses central issues on the semantic and hermeneutic level alike. In Twain’s travelogue, in fact, waters (such as the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, or even rivers and lakes) are far from being expressive of an archetypal and reassuring symbolic trail, which is headed toward the rediscovery of mutual transatlantic origins, along with their regenerative power. Contrariwise, waters reflect –both verbally and visually thanks to the illustrations included in the first American edition of The Innocents Abroad– the parodic image of an unintelligible world; countless inconveniences and misadventures hinder the American traveler’s mobility, ruining the successful outcome of this rite of passage. Therefore, by subverting the heuristic value traditionally assigned to water as a literary object, The Innocents Abroad does not merely typify a counternarrative to nineteenth-century travelogues; instead, Twain’s work may also stand as a leading precipitant of the most recent turns in twenty-first-century sea literature.


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How to Cite

Razzi, F. (2024). “A royal holiday beyond the broad ocean”: Visual Humor and Parodic Reflections in Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. Oltreoceano - Rivista Sulle Migrazioni, (22), 51–60. https://doi.org/10.53154/Oltreoceano79



Anglophone Literatures and America