Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Justin Rivest

Second Advisor

Eliza Ablovatski


This thesis investigates Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a French botanist from the late seventeenth century, primarily focusing on the journey he took to the Eastern Mediterranean in the year 1700, and the text that was produced from that journey. Un relation d’un voyage du Levant was a product of the letters written by Tournefort to the Count de Pontchartrain, supplemented with drawings from artist Claude Aubriet, who accompanied Tournefort on his journey. By exploring the contents of this text, the life of its author, and the circumstances and reception of its 1718 English translation, I hope to contribute to the larger discussion of Orientalism in early modern travel texts by arguing that though Tournefort’s account was not Orientalist in the Saidian sense, it did produce knowledge that could then be appropriated by an Orientalist system of power-knowledge which presented the West as superior to the East. In my investigation I draw on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. I begin by looking critically at Tournefort’s life, aiming to show how his upbringing would have given him a mental map of the Eastern Mediterranean that was fully formed before he set off on his journey. I then look to the contents of his text, showing how these initial assumptions were challenged by his experiences on the ground, especially those with local actors. I argue that his writing shows a non-essentialist view of the Eastern Mediterranean and its inhabitants. I end by looking at the 1718 English translation of Un relation d’un voyage du Levant and investigate how it became drawn into the complexities of the London publishing scene. I also analyze how the text would have likely been viewed by readers as part of the increasingly popular turquerie movement, which demonstrates how a text can be appropriated by a movement or ideological framework within which it was not originally created.

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