Travel Writing: Poetics and Practice
Mobility, both physical and virtual, is a key feature of modernity. This course examines the poetics and practice of geographic mobility in 20th and 21st century German literature. We will discuss both travel fiction and non-fictional travelogues. The course deals with literary portraits of nature, tourism, and Arctic exploration, contemporary road fiction and historical road trips, the lure of the Mediterranean and the Orientalist mystique of the North African city, the critical gaze of the postcolonial traveler, etc. We will discuss the mobile subjects inside and outside of texts and their different kinds of endeavors. Questions include: Who are the travelers in these texts and what are their primary means of transportation? How does it shape their respective visions? What are the different kinds of boundaries crossed and the various contact zones envisioned? What are the non-places featured in these texts? What constitutes the cultural significance of their geographic directions and the mythical quality of their destinations? How do they convey the experiences of the traveling subjects and the encounters between self and Other? What are the literary frameworks they draw upon in portraying their observations and encounters? How do they frame the notions of departure and arrival? How do the travelogues construct their own authenticity? etc. Primary texts include Wolfgang Herrndorf: Tschick; Judith Hermann: Nichts als Gespenster; Anna Kim: Invasionen des Privaten; Christoph Ransmayr: Die Schrecken des Eises und der Finsternis; Elias Canetti: Die Stimmen von Marrakesch; Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Alle Wege sind offen. Die Reise nach Afghanistan 1939/40; Thomas Mann, Der Tod in Venedig. Students can expect to broaden their knowledge of modern German travel writing and to sharpen their analytical skills. Course requirements include active participation in class discussions, brief oral presentations, an annotated bibliography, and a seminar paper (10-15 pages).