Around the World. Travel Literature and Global Experience (1770-1860)
Around 1800, a new genre of travel literature gained importance: reports and narratives of travels around the world. This course will focus on the impact of world travel literature on the literature and culture of the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the 19th century. We will read travel literature by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Georg Forster, Alexander von Humboldt, Adelbert von Chamisso, Ida Pfeiffer and Charles Darwin, as well as related essays by Denis Diderot (on Bougainville) and Christoph Martin Wieland (on Forster). We will take a look at the forms and techniques of travel narratives and at other aesthetic representations of the world in paintings and poems.
The exploration of the ‘new world’ and these early experiences of the Globe combine scientific, historical, literary and aesthetic approaches. The travelers ventured (and were commissioned) to create a multitude of new knowledge of the world (with the help of far-ranging fields such as botany, zoology, history and anthropology) while trying, at the same time, to present their experiences as literary narratives. By reading these texts, we will study a paradox that still haunts us today: The travel accounts tried to capture one global world, one nature, and one common mankind while being faced with the problem to homogenize their findings and to represent the ‘Other’.
Suggested (first) reading:
Georg Forster: Reise um die Welt. Frankfurt/M.: Insel. 1983.
Harry Liebersohn: The Travelers' World: Europe to the Pacific. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2006.
Philippe Despoix: Die Welt vermessen. Dispositive der Entdeckungsreise im Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Göttingen: Wallstein. 2009.