Islamic Spain in American Travel Writing

  • Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera


Since the nineteenth century, American travel writers have demonstrated a singular fascination with Andalucía –and with the Alhambra in particular. While Washington Irving, James Michener, and Rick Steves have spilled ink about Granada, their respective views on the palace and its role in the cultures and histories of Spain are remarkably dissimilar. An inquiry still overlooked in studies of American travel writing in Spain concerns why the perceptions of the Alhambra have shifted so drastically since the nineteenth century. The analyses in this article pose a critical framework to contextualize the role of the Alhambra and its cultural histories in the work of these three authors, and offers a theoretical scaffolding on how the cultural symbols of southern Spain have been engaged in travel writing as a method for gesturing toward broader social and cultural positions.