The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840

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University of California Press, Jan 1, 1994 - History - 380 pages
Once seen as a dark and sinister force, the domain of monsters, the sea was associated with catastrophe and fear by many Europeans prior to the eighteenth century. Alain Corbin's engaging book reveals how attitudes toward the ocean gradually began to shift from the negative to the positive, so that by the mid-1800s our present-day salubrious notion of the seashore had come into being.
Going back to ancient times, Corbin describes conceptions of the sea in relationship to how people thought and felt about their place in the world. He then shows how the Enlightenment and changing attitudes in science, literature, and art affected notions of the sea. Ocean bathing came to be seen as therapeutic, the sea was linked with the creation of life, and the shore became a locale for self-exploration and reverie. Discovery of the seaside had political, economic, and social effects, too. The shore as a place of pleasure led to the rapid growth of British coastal towns such as Brighton, followed by other resorts in Europe. All of this Corbin lays out in wonderful detail, blending history, theory, and anecdote into an absorbing whole.
The Lure of the Sea suggests the fashioning of a modern sensibility in the West's discovery of the shore--one that is health-conscious and intent on regeneration through vigorous contact with nature. Written by one of today's most literate and imaginative historians, it offers an inviting cultural excursion for scholars and general readers alike. Once seen as a dark and sinister force, the domain of monsters, the sea was associated with catastrophe and fear by many Europeans prior to the eighteenth century. Alain Corbin's engaging book reveals how attitudes toward the ocean gradually began to shift from the negative to the positive, so that by the mid-1800s our present-day salubrious notion of the seashore had come into being.
Going back to ancient times, Corbin describes conceptions of the sea in relationship to how people thought and felt about their place in the world. He then shows how the Enlightenment and changing attitudes in science, literature, and art affected notions of the sea. Ocean bathing came to be seen as therapeutic, the sea was linked with the creation of life, and the shore became a locale for self-exploration and reverie. Discovery of the seaside had political, economic, and social effects, too. The shore as a place of pleasure led to the rapid growth of British coastal towns such as Brighton, followed by other resorts in Europe. All of this Corbin lays out in wonderful detail, blending history, theory, and anecdote into an absorbing whole.
The Lure of the Sea suggests the fashioning of a modern sensibility in the West's discovery of the shore--one that is health-conscious and intent on regeneration through vigorous contact with nature. Written by one of today's most literate and imaginative historians, it offers an inviting cultural excursion for scholars and general readers alike.
 

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Contents

The Roots of Fear and Repulsion
1
The First Steps towards Admiration
19
A New Harmony between the Body and the Sea
57
Penetrating the Worlds Enigmas
97
The Ephemeral Journey
163
The Visit to the Harbour
187
The Encyclopaedia of the Strands
198
A World of Transparent Characters
214
The Pathos of the Shores and their
234
Inventing the Beach
250
Conclusion
282
Index
371
Copyright

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About the author (1994)

Alain Corbin is Professor of Modern History at the University of Paris I, Sorbonne and the author of The Foul and the Fragrant (1986).

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