Travelling for culture: the Grand Tour
In the eighteenth century and into the early part of the nineteenth, considerable numbers of aristocratic men (and sometimes women) travelled across Europe in pursuit of education, social advancement and entertainment, on what was known as the Grand Tour. A central objective was to gain exposure to the cultures of classical antiquity, particularly ancient Greece and Rome, and particularly in Italy. Today, the Grand Tour is an interesting object of study because of what it can tell us about how different cultures encountered one another. We can ask why the ancient world held such fascination for elite European culture at this time, for example, and explore how visitors conveyed that fascination through art and literature. We can also ask how the experience of other groups, such as women and children, might have compared to those of the typical male Grand Tourist.
In this free course, you’ll have the opportunity to explore some of these questions, and to gain an introduction to the Grand Tour. The course also provides a snapshot of how our study of this historical and cultural phenomenon can be conducted through different disciplines in the Arts and Humanities, with each section of the course tackling the Grand Tour from a different perspective. In the first, Classical Studies, you will find a short introduction to one of the most iconic destinations of the Grand Tour, the Colosseum in Rome, because a good understanding of the historical and cultural significance of such monuments is an important foundation for studying later responses to them. Sections on Art History and English Literature will show you how portrait painting and poetry provided different ways of recording the encounters with Rome that took place on the Grand Tour, before a final section, Creative Writing, shows how such paintings and poetry can act as triggers or sources of inspiration for later writers too, leading to more imaginative engagements with elements of the Grand Tour.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course.
Taken together, these sections offer a multifaceted perspective on the Grand Tour, and give you some insight into the study of different disciplines that you might undertake if you were to study A112.