Travel Texts and Moving Cultures: A German-focused Comparative Analysis in the Context of the Mobilities Turn
How does the experience of travel transform culture over time? This is the question at the heart of my thesis, which brings together two main areas of scholarship: the cultural analysis of literature and film, and the emerging field of mobilities studies. The objects of analysis are travel texts, i.e. literature and film critically engaged in the cultural experience of movement as travel. The selected texts, which are predominantly German, are (re)viewed within the context of the mobilities turn. This emerging methodological direction (re)conceives of cultures as mobile, and is set out paradigmatically in Mimi Sheller’s and John Urry’s article “The New Mobilities Paradigm” (2006). Mobilities scholars critique traditional sedentary perspectives of people and place, such as that which Martin Heidegger promotes in his essay “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken” (1951). My analysis generally draws on two main concepts or ways of being, namely dwelling, or remaining in one place, which connotes stability, groundedness and permanence, and mobility, or travel to other destinations, which connotes movement, change, and uncertainty. The main body of analysis is prefaced by an examination of the Greek epic, Homer’s Odyssey(ca. 750-700 BC).I consider Odysseus’s culturally foundational journey and the notion of his return to Ithaca as an ideal homecoming. Next, I review selected examples of travel writing from a historical period of significant social change defined by Reinhart Koselleckas the Sattelzeit, 1770-1830. During the Sattelzeita culture founded on mobilities emerged and the desire for travel opened up a space in which new supplementary ideas were formed in relation to technology, Bildung, and culture. Works analysed include Georg Forster’s A Voyage Round the World (1777), which describes the young German scientist’s journey to New Zealand with Captain Cook. I also examineAdelbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814). This fictional narrative by the exiled French-German includes the notable image of a traveller who loses his shadow and thus human contact, but gains seven-league boots which enable enhanced worldwide travel. The Sattelzeit is then compared to the contemporary period of 1985-2010, which comprises two sections. In the first part encompassing 1985-1995,the central focus is onglobal turning point of 1989/90. The analysis of travel texts shows that travel is increasingly regarded as a human right. I look at the travel ideals of East German writers in the build-up to the Fall of the Berlin Wall, in Erich Loest’s novel Zwiebelmuster (1985) and Friedrich Christian Delius’s novella Der Spaziergang von Rostock nach Syrakus (1995). I argue that after 1989/90 the world reaches a point-of-no-return with regard to the global intensification of mobilities. This is intimated in Andrei Ujica’s documentary film Out of the Present (1995) via an extra-terrestrial filmicgaze and the obsolescence of the cosmonaut’s national identity. In the second part, encompassing 1995-2010, I evaluate how travellers experience and negotiate the overwhelming presence of intense mobilities.Here, Theodoros Angelopoulos’s film, Ulysses’ Gaze (1995) and Christoph Ransmayr’s drama, Odysseus, Verbrecher (2010) are examined as contemporary iterations of the Odyssey, which problematize the possibility of homecoming. In the concluding section of this thesis I recapitulate the dominant themes with reference to Bernhard Schlink’s novel Heimkehr (2006), the odyssey of a young German man in search of his father. I suggest future directions for research.Further, I reflect on the extent to which a German-focused comparative cultural analysis of travel texts makes a useful contribution to the emerging field of mobilities studies. A key outcome here is that the approach taken opens up the possibility of an evaluation of the ethics of ever-increasing mobility which is lacking in existing critical mobilities literature.
Advisor: Ryan, Simon; Mehigan, Tim
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Languages and Cultures
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: German studies; travel writing; cultural studies; film; Sattelzeit; East Germany; Martin Heidegger; John Urry; Mimi Sheller; mobilities; Odyssey
Research Type: Thesis