Travel Texts and Moving Cultures

German Literature and the Mobilities Turn

by Anita Perkins (Author)
Monographs X, 240 Pages

Table Of Content

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Thank you always to my wonderful family and friends.

For their editorial work and for providing me with the incredible opportunity to publish this book, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to series editors Professor Tim Mehigan and Professor Gerhard Schulz, and to commissioning editor Laurel Plapp.

I would like to thank my amazing PhD supervisors, Dr Simon Ryan and Professor Tim Mehigan. They were exceptionally supportive, kind and inspirational throughout the entire PhD process as well as during all my years at the University of Otago.

Natasha Murachver, thank you bringing this book to life with your beautiful cover illustration. ← vii | viii →

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Introduction: Goethe’s Stein des guten Glücks

In a quiet corner of Johann von Goethe’s Gartenhaus1 in Weimar, Germany, sits a sandstone sculpture that bears the name of Stein des guten Glücks, or Stone of Good Fortune. From here, this analytical journey begins. Aesthetically speaking, the sculpture is quite simple in form – in essence, it is merely a globe resting atop a cube. Yet, if one enquires into the cultural meanings behind the creation of the stone monument from a mobilities perspective, one is inevitably led down a path toward asking some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. A mobilities approach raises questions of physical and emotional movement, identity formation and relationships, and the continual search for ideal balance in life.

“Agatha Tyche gegründet!” wrote Goethe in his diary on 5 April 1777.2 This was the day on which the Stein des guten Glücks, sculpted by and designed in collaboration with the Leipzig artist, Adam Friedrich Oeser, was erected in Goethe’s garden. Müller-Wolff explains the concept behind the form of the sculpture and how it relates to the Greek goddess of fortune, Tyche:

Goethe […] setzte seine Vorstellung von einem auf die geometrischen Körper des Würfels und der Kugel reduzierten Denkmal durch und schuf damit ein abstraktes Gleichnis für die gegensätzlichen Kräfte, die das Leben bestimmen. Auf dem mächtigen steineren Kubus, der Festigkeit, Stärke und Ruhe versinnbildlicht, lagert die Kugel als Symbol des Verändlichen, des Dynamischen und damit zugleich als Sinnbild der Zeit. Die römische Glücks- und Schicksalsgöttin Fortuna, die diese Kugel in unberechenbarer Bewegung hält und so für Zufall, Geschick, Glück und Unglück sorgt, entsprach weitgehend der griechischen Göttin Tyche. “Agatha Tyche,” nach ← 1 | 2 → der Goethe den “Stein des guten Glücks” benannte, steht im Griechischen speziell für das gütige Geschick und damit für den günstigen Ausgang aller Dinge.3

From this quotation one may venture that the Stein des guten Glücks provides an appropriate symbolic entry point for this study in two main ways. First, one might relate the idea of “the contrary forces which direct life” to the overall theoretical approach adopted here which is derived from John Urry’s and Mimi Sheller’s “New Mobilities Paradigm”.4 More specifically, the stone relates to the constant negotiation between two seemingly opposed ways of being: dwelling, or remaining in one place, on the one hand, and mobility, or travelling to other destinations, on the other. Connotations of dwelling, one could argue, are invoked by the cube that forms the base of the sculpture, “which symbolizes firmness, strength and peacefulness”. This relates to ideas of groundedness, permanence and strength; the earth that supports us, yet to which we – especially the travellers among us – do not wish to be bound. The sphere which rests atop the cube may be said to be representative of the concept of mobility itself, that is, “as a symbol of mutability, the dynamic […] in unanticipated movement”. This sphere or globe relates to ideas of change, fluctuation, fate and uncertainty. Movement or journeying can entail wondrous possibilities, but equally unforeseen danger or suffering. If the sculpture is then considered as a single form, it may be regarded as symbolic of humankind’s ever-changing and contradictory experience of travel – from something to be avoided or endured, to an educational experience, to a fundamental human right – and of the desire to represent these experiences in a variety of expressive modes.5 ← 2 | 3 →

Much of Goethe’s work revolves about an exploration of antinomies. As well as conveying these ideas through the medium of the garden sculpture, he wrote poems that engaged with permanence and stability as well as transience and change. A first version of the poem “An den Mond” was written at around the same time the Stein des guten Glücks was erected.6 The subject of “An den Mond” undergoes a kind of spiritual journey (indicated by the phrases “[m]eine Seele” and “mein Geschick”) in an evocative natural setting and narrates this experience in an address to the moon.7 To begin with, there is an atmosphere of peace and calm underscored by the phrases “Still mit Nebelglanz” and “Lindernd deinen Blick”.8 But this tranquil mood soon yields to a sense of threat and loss in the face of volatile change, which is sparked by the sight of the flowing river (“Fließe, fließe, lieber Fluß! / Nimmer werd ich froh, / So verrauschte Scherz und Kuß, / Und die Treue so”).9 Some three decades later, between 1801 and 1803, Goethe wrote another poem with similar thematic concerns entitled “Dauer im Wechsel”.10 As the title suggests, one possible interpretation of this poem is a search for meaning and a sense of stability during a time of increasing change and speed. The opening lines read: “Hielte diesen frühen Segen, / Ach, nur Eine Stunde fest! / Aber vollen Blütenregen / Schüttelt schon der laue West”.11 Furthermore, in addition to adjusting to outward transitions or changes in nature, as illustrated in the allusion to Heraclitus’s formulation, “Ach, und in demselben Flusse / Schwimmst du nicht zum zweitenmal”, Goethe also suggests that one’s own sense of identity and point of view changes over time: “Mauern siehst du, siehst Paläste / Stets ← 3 | 4 → mit andern Augen an.”12 These two poems, written some thirty years apart, appear to demonstrate a kind of gradual coming to terms with the ambiguity of life on the part of the author. Still, Goethe does not appear to resolve in any final sense the question of an ideal balance between permanence and change or dwelling and mobility. With reference to the poem “Dauer im Wechsel” Gray writes: “It is perhaps significant in this connection that the rhythm and rhyme scheme continue to race on toward the end as though no whole solution, reflected in sound as well as sense, had been found.”13

How might the Stein des guten Glücks “as a symbol of the age” also relate symbolically to the periodisation of this study? My analysis takes into consideration those periods of human history that have been identified by historians and other scholars of human society as fundamentally significant in terms of world-impacting cultural, social and political transition and which, moreover, are marked by dramatic and irrevocable changes in cultural mobility, such as those which occur around such an event as the French Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). These transitional periods are analysed in this study from the perspective of writers and filmmakers of selected travel texts.14

As noted above, the Stein des guten Glücks was erected in 1777. The concept behind this stone sculpture (“Festigkeit, Stärke und Ruhe” vis-à-vis “d[a]s Verändliche[.], d[a]s Dynamische[.] [,…] Bewegung”) implies that Goethe, at this point in time, while having a thorough knowledge of Greek Antiquity, was also already reflecting on ideas of movement versus stasis, of stability versus uncertainty as they were being experienced at that time. Goethe was responding to the changing society around him in which a culture founded on mobilities was slowly emerging. This would ← 4 | 5 → explain, in part, his problematising of the link between Greek culture and the realities of the present he was living through:

During the latter part of 1776 and the beginning of 1777 there is no evidence to show how he regarded the Greeks[,] nor how he related them to his struggle. But the position of Greek culture in modern life exercised him much during this period, both as a personal and as a social problem.15

Despite a gradual opening up to the idea of the benefits of travel at this time, embarking on epic journeys for educational purposes was by no means commonplace, especially near the commencement of the period I am calling, after Reinhart Koselleck, the Sattelzeit.16 This is perhaps one of the reasons why Goethe chose to keep his Stein des guten Glücks in his private garden, away from the critical gaze of the general public: “Da Goethe den ‘Stein des guten Glücks’ in seinem eigenen Garten aufstellte, mußte er auf dessen allgemeine Verständlichkeit für den Betrachter keine Rücksicht nehmen.”17 Still, in his own work and in the company he chose to keep, one can see a clear and enduring interest in the cultural possibilities of travel. This is made evident in the appearance of his 1795–6 Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre,18 in which a young man leaves his home village to go out in the world and experience what travel can make possible in his ← 5 | 6 → life. This narrative was possibly in part influenced by an amicable meeting between Goethe and Georg Forster, renowned naturalist, circumnavigator and author of the 1777 travel text A Voyage Round the World,19 in Goethe’s house in Weimar in September 1785.20 Another example which demonstrates Goethe’s enduring interest in the cultural possibilities of travel can be found in his travel narrative Italienische Reise.21 Italienische Reise documents his travels around Italy from 1786–8 and was originally published in 1816/17:

It was above all antiquity – the Rome of Winckelmann and the Rome of Greece – which Goethe discovered on his Italian journey. He was moved by Raphael and Paladio and by the Italian landscape and sky. […] He was refreshing his roots of poetry by the escape from the abstemiousness of Weimar to the license of Rome.22

Goethe’s Italian Journey is thus significant in terms of the liberating experience of travel and the impact of this of Goethe’s poetic development.

In the twenty-first century, Goethe’s stone monument is no longer a private symbol of contemplation. Tourists from around the world are able to view the Stein des guten Glücks six days a week as part of organised tours ← 6 | 7 → of the garden house.23 The author is able to download audio in German about the stone, the same audio the tourist with headphones listens to while walking through Goethe’s garden in Weimar.24 Anywhere in the world, a consumer with access to the internet and a credit card can purchase a marble replica of the sculpture in black, white, yellow or red for €97.25

What do these dramatic changes reveal? Contemporary modes of access to the Stein des guten Glücks support the following general inferences about the changes from Goethe’s time to the contemporary period: mobility is no longer emerging, but rather omnipresent; and much of what was private is now publicly and internationally accessible, whether in the form of a tourist attraction or downloadable internet files. What technological forces and human desires led to this major transition and how does it impact on our everyday lives? In addressing this question and in my analyses of adapting technology and mobile human experience, I focus on the representations of events and physical phenomena and their social consequences. Rather than examining everyday lives per se, my focus is everyday lives and how they have been transformed by experiences of mobility. This is one of the issues addressed by the filmmakers and travel texts of 1985–95, such as Erich Loest’s novel Zwiebelmuster (1985)26 and Andrei Ujica’s documentary film Out of the Present (1995).27 In the process of global mobilisation something is undoubtedly gained: the traveller is now able to view the historic Stein des guten Glücks at first hand. At the same time, something is lost: a monument imbued with personal symbolic significance for Goethe is reduced to a reproducible on-line shopping ← 7 | 8 → commodity. Accordingly, in the contemporary period, it is the aim of some travel text writers – such as filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos, director of the 1995 film, Ulysses’ Gaze,28 and Christoph Ransmayr, author of the 2010 play Odysseus, Verbrecher: Schauspiel einer Heimkehr29 – to question the supposed advantages of the current state of the mobilised world. In this mobilised world the image of an ideal homecoming, such as that depicted in Homer’s canonical text the Odyssey, persists, yet is no longer possible in the Homeric sense of a singular journey with a successful homecoming. What would Goethe think of this contemporary penchant for mobility? It is difficult to speculate about this as he himself never quite found the answer to the question of how to find the right balance between dwelling and mobility: “Das Streben nach dem Ausgleich einander wiederstrebender Mächte sollte ihn zeitlebens beschäftigen.”30

The German term for travel or journey, die Reise, in one of its earliest forms is etymologically grounded in the concept of military mobilisation.31 The following entry for the term Reise is provided in the 1891 Etymological Dictionary of the German Language:32 ← 8 | 9 →

Reise, f., “journey, travel, voyage,” from MidHG [Middle High German of approximately 1050 to 1350]. reise, f., departure, march, journey, military expedition[.]33

In the period between the First World War and the Second World War, the German writer and intellectual Ernst Jünger contributed significantly to ideas about the economic, social and political consequences of increasing movement and mobility.34 While the work of Jünger has not been extensively acknowledged in contemporary mobilities scholarship, he is a well-known figure in German studies.35 Furthermore, an understanding of his approach is vital to contextualise the emergence of Heidegger’s concept of dwelling, which is a key theoretical idea in this study, as I set out below. This contention is supported by Tijmes’s statement: “Juenger’s work is important to consider since his influence on Heidegger is large and not well known.”36 On the other hand, sociologist Georg Simmel’s work of the early 1900s is (appropriately, if sometimes superficially,) credited as “establish[ing] a broad agenda for the [contemporary] analysis of mobilities.”37 Yet, after Simmel, it is notably Jünger who, more prominently than others, highlights new forms of mobility and the spread of mobilisation through technical-industrial societies.

Jünger sets out his argument in two essays “Feuer und Bewegung”38 and “Die totale Mobilmachung”,39 both of which were published in 1930. In the following passage, Jünger outlines the far-reaching significance of military mobilisation: ← 9 | 10 →

Neben den Heeren, die sich auf den Schlachtfeldern begegnen, entstehen die neuartigen Heere des Verkehrs, der Ernährung, der Rüstungsindustrie – das Heer der Arbeit überhaupt. […] [Das] macht den Weltkrieg zu einer historischen Erscheinung, die an Bedeutung der Französischen Revolution überlegen ist. Um Energien von solchem Ausmaß zu entfalten, genügt es nicht mehr, den Schwertarm zu rüsten – es ist eine Rüstung bis ins innerste Mark, bis in den feinsten Lebensnerv erforderlich. Sie zu verwirklichen ist die Aufgabe der Totalen Mobilmachung[.]40

Thus, total military mobilisation, which reached its ultimate form in the First World War, involves all members of society, whether military or civilian. As Kaes has summarised it: “[F]or Jünger total mobilization was nothing other than a total system in which every movement is functionalized for the good of the state.”41 Technological advances were an integral part of the unprecedented military mobilisation of the First World War: “Es war zu erwarten, daß im Zeitalter der Technik die Mittel und Methoden der Kriegführung einer schnelleren und gründlicheren Veränderung unterliegen würden, als sie sonst im Wechsel der feindlichen Begegnungen, die zwischen Menschen stattfanden, beobachtet worden sind.”42 In addition, Jünger points out that these technical advances in the conduct of warfare cannot be differentiated from everyday social life in times of peace: “[D]er Krieg ist nicht ein Zustand, der völlig seinen eigenen Gesetzen unterworfen ist, sondern eine andere Seite des Lebens, die selten an der Oberfläche tritt, aber eng mit ihm verbunden ist.”43 The repercussions of the First World War for humanity were almost beyond comprehension: “[e]ine Mobilisation von diesem Umfang hatte der menschliche Verstand zu Beginn des Weltkrieges noch nicht vorgesehen.”44 With the development of mass killing machines, Jünger states, empathy for others decreases: ← 10 | 11 → “An vielen Stellen ist die humanitäre Maske fast abgetragen, dafür tritt ein halb grotesker, halb barbarischer Fetischismus der Maschine […] hervor.”45 As such, the First World War should then be generally regarded as: “das größte und wirksamste Ereignis dieser Zeit.”46 In 1980, Jünger reflected on his earlier work and concluded that his ideas concerning the significance of military mobilisation and the fetishisation of technology still held true. He observed: “Die Rüstung der Weltmächte hat planetarische Maße gewonnen[.] […] Jeder rüstet, und jeder wirft es dem anderen vor. Das wird zugleich als Teufelskreis empfunden wie auch in Paraden zelebriert.”47 In 1998, Tijmes writes: “No one who reflects on technology in our time can afford to overlook Juenger.”48

There are other precursors to the emergence of mobilities studies, including Paul Virilio, who was greatly influenced by Jünger, but neither their work nor Jünger’s is a primary methodological focus of this study.49 Crucial to my undertaking here is the research of sociologist John Urry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. One may identify three of his seminal texts (two as co-author) as being important for the constitution of mobilities research as a research field in its own right. In his 2003 article, “Social Networks, Travel and Talk”,50 Urry examines “the role that physical, corporeal travel plays in social life” in light of, “a large and increasing ← 11 | 12 → scale of such travel that has grown simultaneously with the proliferation of communication devices that might substitute for travel.”51 Up to this point, the bulk of research on travel had been undertaken by transport engineers and economists.52 It is imperative, he observes, “to contribute to the emerging ‘mobility turn’ within the social sciences.”53 The 2006 inaugural editorial of the journal Mobilities adds weight to his claim for the existence of a mobility/mobilities turn.54 Hannam, Sheller and Urry’s 2006 essay entitled “Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings”, provides further contextualisation for mobilities studies and emerging directions in related terms of research. They state:

Mobility has become an evocative keyword for the twenty-first century and a powerful discourse that creates its own effects and contexts. […] [A] “mobility turn” is spreading into and transforming the social sciences, not only placing new issues on the table, but also transcending disciplinary boundaries and putting into question the fundamental “territorial” and “sedentary” precepts of twentieth-century social science.55

The mobility turn is a turn away from traditional methods of social science research which essentially imagine research subjects as still or non-mobile, as “territorial” citizens of specific places, which they never leave because they are viewed as “sedentary”.

Arguably the most fundamental contribution to the advent of mobilities research is an article published in the same year by Sheller and Urry entitled “The New Mobilities Paradigm.” The authors of this paper further ← 12 | 13 → develop the conceptual aspects of the mobilities turn by setting out its characteristics, properties, and implications in paradigmatic terms.56 Sheller and Urry underscore the dramatic changes that are occurring globally in terms of physical and virtual travel: “[a]ll the world seems to be on the move”, yet have largely been ignored.57 The new “mobilities paradigm” is identified as interdisciplinary in scope; the authors go on to specify those particular disciplines which have been the driving force behind the mobilities turn, namely, “anthropology, cultural studies, geography, migration studies, science and technology studies, tourism and transport studies, and sociology.”58 At the same time, the paradigm is concerned mainly with sociological questions and this can lead to analyses which are empirical and lacking a wider critical context. While my approach takes as its basis the general conceptual concerns laid out by Sheller and Urry, it also contributes to the extension and modification of the paradigm. Given that my methodology in this study incorporates the analysis of writing and film, my approach has the effect of broadening the ambit of mobilities research and argues for the inclusion of cultural and literary aspects in the discussion of a new “mobilities paradigm”. A focus on the representation of experience, rather than on the way in which mobilities operates at a functional level, means that my analysis provides the mobilities paradigm with a critical accent by taking it into the domain of cultural reflection. Although the analytical perspective I develop may be regarded as being tangential to the concerns of the paradigm expounded by Sheller and Urry in the area of sociology, these theorists are encouraging a degree of openness toward the aims of mobilities research. Rather than viewing the field as an already established set of parameters, they state: “The new mobilities paradigm suggests a set of questions, theories, and methodologies rather than a totalising or reductive description of the contemporary world.”59 Moreover, Sheller and Urry call for a mobilisation of theory itself in order to adequately ← 13 | 14 → research contemporary movement: “New mobilities are bringing into being new surprising combinations of presence and absence as the new century chaotically unfolds. Methods and theories will need to be ever on the move to keep up with these new forms of mobilities.”60 The cultural dilemma of how to reconcile the desire to stay with the desire to go, or the search for the ideal balance between these conflicting desires, I argue, is at the heart of human experience. My analytical approach thus contributes to and extends Sheller’s and Urry’s aims by introducing a critical cultural accent to the new mobilities paradigm. I interrogate some canonical texts as well as lesser known ones within the framework of mobilities research in order to encapsulate the importance of imagination and representation in the spaces through which the traveller moves. My analysis is based on the premise that travel becomes meaningful first and foremost at the conceptual level, as idea, image, ideal or desire, and thus takes mobilities into the sphere of textuality and visuality.

The growing body of scholarship in the field of mobilities studies may be taken as an acknowledgement of a scholarly shift toward centring social research on experiences of movement and travel. As a result of the interdisciplinary nature of the field, mobility has been conceptualised in a number of different ways. Commonly, it is conceived of in terms of a continuum with little or no movement at one end, and extreme mobility at the other, or a dialectical relationship between these two points.61 Hannam, Sheller and Urry indicate a preference for visualising mobility in terms of mobilities and moorings, and the systems which they produce:

Mobilities cannot be described without attention to the necessary spatial, infrastructural and institutional moorings that configure and enable mobilities[.] […] There are interdependent systems of “immobile” material worlds and especially some exceptionally immobile platforms, transmitters, roads, garages, stations, aerials, airports, docks, factories through which mobilizations of locality are performed and re-arrangements of place and scale materialized. The complex character of such ← 14 | 15 → systems stems from the multiple fixities or moorings often on a substantial physical scale that enable the fluidities of liquid modernity, and especially of capital.62

The focus on mobilities and “moorings” is particularly useful for perceiving the world in terms of the movement of people, objects and currency through a complex set of systems, as opposed to a more grounded view which puts emphasis primarily on places rather than the movement. It is useful in understanding processes of globalisation as movement per se, at a meta-level. This is particularly applicable for contextualising the historical background of the time periods which I discuss in this study. Further, the term mobilities in the plural highlights the complexity and multiplicity of such movements, and the term moorings denotes the predominantly temporary nature of rests or pauses between movements, which, I argue, is a condition of contemporary mobilities.

In a keynote address entitled “On Staying”, made at the inaugural conference of the Travel Research Network of the University of Melbourne, cultural studies expert Mary Louise Pratt offered another variation on conceptualising mobility.63 In this presentation, Pratt conceived of travel in terms of relations between bodies that move and bodies that stay, or goers and stayers. The relationship between goers and stayers organises cultural spaces, for example, in the activity of visiting: someone is at home and someone comes by their home. This relational perspective on mobility is particularly useful for revealing the underlying or assumed power dynamics that emerge when some people are mobile and others are immobile. Pratt suggests that it often those who stay who are overlooked by researchers, in spite of the fact that stayers are crucial to enabling the mobility of goers. She gives the example of stayers who provide support in the forms of providing necessary accommodation to travellers on a pilgrimage journey, or those who stay behind maintaining families or factories while others ← 15 | 16 → travel to war.64 While the main focus in this study is on the experiences of those who travel, I also pay attention to the traveller’s relationship with the loved ones or stayers who remain behind, with particular regard to the way in which stayers are the integral part of the traveller’s image of home.

The dialectical relationship between moorings and mobilities, and the relations between goers and stayers are both conceptually useful to this study for the reasons outlined above. However, both conceptualisations of mobility are somewhat limited in terms of addressing the foci and analytical dimensions of this investigation. Here, I expand instead on an approach mentioned but not concentrated on by Sheller and Urry in the new mobilities paradigm, that is, conceptualising mobility on a continuum with dwelling at one end and intense mobility at the other. As time goes on, generally speaking, the world moves along the continuum toward intense mobility, although there are important exceptions, as demonstrated in Part II, Chapter 3, which includes analysis on enforced dwelling in the German Democratic Republic.

In the new mobilities paradigm, Sheller and Urry refer to the concept of dwelling when they call into question the extant theory of sedentarism. Sedentarism, they explain, “treats as normal stability, meaning, and place, and treats as abnormal distance, change, and placelessness”, and, methodologically speaking, “locates bounded and authentic places or regions or nations as the fundamental basis of human identity and experience and as the basic units of social research.”65 Sheller and Urry add that sedentarism: “is often derived loosely from [Martin] Heidegger for whom dwelling (or wohnen) means to reside or to stay, to dwell at peace, to be content or at home in a place.”66 Here, they somewhat fleetingly reference Heidegger’s concept of dwelling as it is set out in his 1951 essay “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken.”67 However, rather than loosely basing my critique of ← 16 | 17 → sedentarism or fixed-culture on Heidegger’s concept of dwelling, I take his concept as an analytical point of departure.

It is important to note that Heidegger’s concept of dwelling does not completely preclude travel, but it does assume that travel is the exceptional way of being and is to be carried out for necessary purposes only, such as work (as in the following example) or, one may hazard, war (as in the case of Odysseus in the Odyssey). Heidegger writes: “Wir wohnen nicht bloß, das wäre beinahe Untätigkeit, wir stehen in einem Beruf, wir machen Geschäfte, wir reisen und wohnen unterwegs, bald hier, bald dort.”68 In other words, the concept of dwelling does not entail complete inactivity. Rather, dwelling has to do with limiting one’s movement to travel that is strictly necessary, and to a concomitant set of values that revolve around the home, family and a peaceful existence.

Heidegger’s concept of dwelling or the notion of sedentarism can be applied to Homer’s epic Greek travel journey, Odyssey.69 At the point in the story when Odysseus comes across King Alcinous’s daughter Nausicaa after being washed up on the island of Skheria, he flatters her thus: “may the Gods requite all your heart’s desire; husband, house and especially ingenious accord within that house: for there is nothing so good as when man and wife in their home dwell together in unity of mind and disposition” (OD, 6: V. 180–4). Dwelling, Heidegger suggests, involves restricted mobility “im Bereich unseres Wohnens” or the “domain of our dwelling”.70 In my analysis I refer to this concept with the term “dwelling-place”.71 It ← 17 | 18 → follows that wayfaring is unsettling and has negative implications; relentless and aimless wandering to foreign places, i.e. outside the domain, having temporary homes (or no home) is highly objectionable and leads to an unhappy, tumultuous life, such as Odysseus’s harrowing experiences in the period before he finally reached his home of Ithaca. Conversely, when people remain and dwell within a limited geographical space, it means that culture is, from this Heideggerian perspective, rooted, easily contained, maintained and defined. This is in stark contrast to the contemporary boundary blurring notion of “dwelling-in-travel”72 or, as Sheller and Urry term it, “material and sociable dwelling-in-motion”, for example, in a travelling automobile.73

Examining sedentarism from the viewpoint of Heidegger’s concept of dwelling adds a significant analytical perspective and prompts discussion of issues such as the origin of Heidegger’s concept of dwelling. As mentioned above, Heidegger’s philosophy was influenced by the work of Ernst Jünger. Tijmes notes how Jünger’s thinking regarding the impact of technology on changes in modernity played a part in the formation of Heidegger’s concept of dwelling:

Martin Heidegger […] was deeply influenced by Juenger but did not join his warm and drastic enthusiasm for technology […] Heidegger borrowed from Juenger the idea that modern technology ushers in a revolutionary period of history, and he was convinced that this revolution leads to alienation or uprootedness. Heidegger tried to counter this situation.74

One might say that Heidegger tried to counter this situation by advocating a rooted life and placing less value on modern technologies which enable mobility. Another issue to address is the question, how does the desire for a dwelling-life compare to the desire for travel? In addition, I ask, why does this in many respects outmoded concept maintain its appeal as a way ← 18 | 19 → of living or a set of values in the contemporary period where life seems predicated on travel and the need for it?

One may understand the field of mobilities studies as a subfield of globalisation studies. This is because at the heart of its enquiry is a critical examination of the impacts of intensification (in speed and frequency) of the worldwide movement of people, objects and information.75 At the same time, it is important to point out that as well as problematising the focus on sedentarism, mobilities studies also seek to question understandings of globalisation “that posit a new ‘grand narrative’ of mobility, fluidity or liquidity[.]”76 While new technologies enable the flow of some travellers, this is by no means a universal phenomenon. One must take into consideration the power relations and political contestations arising from varying levels of access to mobility that “enhance the mobility of some peoples and places and heighten the immobility of others, especially as they try to cross borders.”77 For instance, “[r]ights to travel […] are highly uneven and skewed even between a pair of countries.”78 Therefore a mobilities perspective allows one to acknowledge the operation of dominant assumptions, such as sedentarist or universalist viewpoints, while at the same time developing a kind of third or alternative position allowing these viewpoints to be transcended and new accommodations with mobility to be reached.

In the approach that I follow, I discuss the way in which a mobilities perspective can shed new light on popular explanations of the worldwide political climate for a period I hold to be pivotal: 1989–1990. For example, one may conjecture that a universalist outlook on culture led political scientist Francis Fukuyama to declare an “end to history” in 1989 on the basis of an alleged universalisation of the values enshrined in Western liberal ← 19 | 20 → democracy.79 Similarly, one may suggest that political scientist Samuel P. Huntington took a sedentarist approach when he diagnosed a “clash of civilizations” between the eastern and western worlds in 1993.80 Yet, these readings do not adequately explain the desire for travel of East Germans before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and why East German writer Erich Loest, for example, could devote an entire novel (Zwiebelmuster) to discussion of the psychological need to transcend the limited geographical space of the GDR in which he is trapped. Neither can these theories account for the reasons why Greek film producer Theodoros Angelopoulos would script and direct a film (Ulysses’ Gaze) that explores the travel desire of a Greek-American filmmaker who wishes to travel through the contemporary geographical space of the Balkans, as well as back through time in the hope of finding a perspective on life lost for nearly a century.

Still, if one is to claim that universalist and sedentarist approaches to understanding culture do not suffice in order to explain the complexities of historic and contemporary social experience, how then is one to understand culture in relation to travel? Methodologically speaking, on what assumptions can a cultural analysis of travel texts be justified? An answer to these questions may be found in the anthropologist James Clifford’s 1992 essay “Traveling Cultures”. Clifford’s article outlines a particular theoretical approach to conducting anthropological field research:

One needs to focus on hybrid cosmopolitan experiences as much as on rooted, native ones. […] [T]he goal is not to replace the cultural figure “native” with the intercultural figure “traveler.” Rather the task is to focus on mediations of the two, in specific cases of historical tension and relationship. In varying degrees, both are constitutive of what will count as cultural experience. I am not recommending that we make the margin a new center (e.g. “we” are all travelers) but rather that the specific dynamics of dwelling/traveling be comparatively organized.81 ← 20 | 21 →

Experience gained while travelling is equally as constitutive of cultural experience as not travelling. As Pratt suggests, one possible way forward for mobilities research is to look at the relations between stayers and goers (as she calls it, the “mediations of the two”). One may ask, what is it that makes one decide to set forth from a rooted existence and make the transition from stayer to goer or vice versa? Which ideas, ideals, political and social restraints, relationship difficulties, future prospects, notions of self-formation etc. motivate travel itself in different time periods, or “in specific cases of historical tension”? And, further, what motivates writers and filmmakers to represent cultural experiences of travel in writing and on film? To paraphrase Clifford, without making the margin a new centre or adopting a universalist approach, I attempt to answer these questions by conceptually organising specific cultural dynamics of global and even extra-global experience. I identify how these cultural dynamics relate to, on the one hand, an insistence on dwelling, and concomitant notions of permanence and stability as connoted by the cube part of Goethe’s sculpture, and, on the other hand, the compulsion for intense mobility, and associated notions of speed, change and unpredictability as connoted by the sphere part of Goethe’s sculpture.

In my approach I define the objects of analysis as travel texts, and by this I mean works of literature and film which critically engage with the cultural experience of travel. Here, I consciously depart from travel writing in the conventional sense which may be somewhat limited by encompassing only that which is considered canonical literature, or by certain disciplinary approaches such as tourism studies (e.g. of guidebooks), or studies of colonialism (e.g. of travelogues of missionaries). In my approach, travel texts are those texts, including films read as texts, which include a variety of cultural experiences of mobility across time. Each travel text sheds light on a particular individual’s understanding of the world in relation to others and how this changes over the course of their journey. Adopting such an openly premised enquiry allows the analysis to move in unanticipated, yet coherent directions. Generally speaking, the geographical pathway of this analysis broadens over time and constitutes a journey from Greece, through Germany and Europe, to the antipodes and, finally, into the space surrounding the earth. ← 21 | 22 →

While traditional approaches call for more fixed approaches (e.g. an analysis of British writers in France), there are two main reasons why I do not adopt this kind of restricted approach. The first argument relates to the problems with imagining spaces as fixed. The second point relates to the oftentimes transnational or highly mobile identities of writers and filmmakers.

First, restricting my analysis to writers or filmmakers of specific nations who have produced texts on experiences in specific nations would be contrary to the ambit of the new mobilities paradigm, namely the call for a mobilisation of theory itself in order to adequately research contemporary forms of movement. The paradigm, Sheller and Urry point out, is “part of a broader theoretical project aimed at going beyond the imagery of ‘terrains’ as spatially fixed geographical containers for social processes[.]”82 Indeed, in the contemporary period it becomes necessary in some cases to conceive of places themselves as mobile.83 To a great extent the notion of place as fixed or sedentary remains uncontested in traditional literary analyses of travel writing. By adopting a mobilities approach, I open up the possibility of an alternative view which recognises the significance and power of travel as a concept which helps to shape our life experiences and understandings of the mobile world through which we move physically and imaginatively. Second, the ever-accelerating increase in international movement now means that identifying writers/filmmakers in terms of a singular national identity descriptor or failing to acknowledge the writer’s or filmmaker’s experience of mobility in some form is an increasingly suspect approach. Meyer-Kalkus states that for the researcher of travel literature “[i]t is becoming increasingly difficult to relegate authors to a single culture and nation – they live and write in the spaces between.”84 My approach involves much more than examining German travel texts ← 22 | 23 → through a mobilities lens. My analysis draws on representations of travel experiences which themselves call into question the notion of cultural self-identity, such as “being German”, or the idea of belonging to a particular nation or local territory. Geographically restricted identity classifications are also problematic when it comes to considering the perspectives of readers of travel texts. Thus, it must be acknowledged that contemporary writers are now, “speaking to – and for – readers as hybrid and many-souled as themselves.”85 At the same time, however, this does not mean that I disregard the importance of particular national or cultural identities. Rather it means that the analyses allow for new mobility-inspired forms of identity to arise, as exemplified in filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos’s statement: “I do not believe that Greece is only a geographical location. […] [T]his Greece that is in my mind is the Greece I call home.”86

The travel texts examined in this study contain a mixture of that which outside literary studies would commonly be delineated as fictional and non-fictional works. On the one hand, one could argue that finding a way in which wholly to demarcate so-called fiction from so-called non-fiction would be a rather complex and arduous task. This reflects Angelopoulos’s statement that “[e]very moment consists of the past and the present, the real and the imaginary, all of them blending together into one.”87 For example, ← 23 | 24 → in Karl Philipp Moritz’s text Anton Reiser (1785–6),88 which I analyse in Part I, it is difficult to determine to what extent the work is an autobiographical account, and to what extent it is made up of imagined scenarios and characters. This is a point I directly address in my analysis. On the other hand, in the case of each text, it is made clear to the reader of this study which is presented as a factual account of a travel experience and which is presented as an imagined journey. In each example, however, I also provide relevant biographical details of the writer’s or filmmaker’s own experience of mobility which reflect on how such experiences translate into the given text. In one particular example examined in Part II, the question of what is fictional versus what is non-fictional is again complex. Der Spaziergang von Rostock nach Syrakus (1995)89 is a literary version of an actual journey that took place before the fall of the Wall, which itself, was a retracing of a journey that took place and was recorded in a journal during the Sattelzeit. Thus, generally speaking, I argue that an open definition of travel texts, which includes fictional and non-fictional texts, leads to unanticipated, yet enlightening, analytical connections, and that all travel text analyses contribute to the overall research aim of responding to the key question of how travel or mobility transforms culture over time.

Given the conceptually open geographical and textual categories I apply, it may at first appear questionable to refer to this research as a comparative approach. Rather, it is a variation on a more traditional sense of comparative literature as a direct comparison between works of two cultures, nations or languages. My analysis is somewhat cross-sectional: it is a comparative approach to the analysis of mobile experience in travel texts across space, time and cultural experience. I compare travel texts across time: i.e. between and within the Sattelzeit of 1770 to 1830, and the contemporary periods of 1985–95 and 1995–2010; (geographic) space, i.e. the different, ← 24 | 25 → ever-widening spatial realms of travelling (i.e. Greece, Europe, global circumnavigation and the space surrounding the earth), that are traversed with increasing speed; and cultures/ways of being, dwelling vis-à-vis travel. This comparative approach contributes to the historicisation of mobilities, an approach which is largely absent from existing critical literature since the mobilities turn.90 My historical approach leads me to regard mobility as a permanent facet of human experience. Yet the representations of travel and of the tension between staying and going turn out to be quite different at different moments in time. In the Sattelzeit, for example, the development of a mobile technology for writing signals a change in which the representation of human experience is thought to be more authentic if recorded in the immediate present while on the move, rather than in the slower time of reflection and recollection, when the writer takes up again a sedentary viewpoint. In the contemporary period of new mobilities, technology starts to take the upper hand so that mobility becomes dependent on it. Thus the technology of writing is no longer highly regarded as a means of recording experience; mobile digital communications start to displace writing. These examples from different historical junctures represent shifts in cultural values and the social consequences related to the representation of physical phenomena. Here, I provide a more specific example in which a comparative approach brings to light new perspectives to travel analysis. In Friedrich Christian Delius’s Der Spaziergang von Rostock nach Syrakus, one sees that the situation in East Germany in which most citizens are unable to travel to the West is particularly frustrating given the freedom that travellers enjoyed in the earlier Sattelzeit. The protagonist of the novella, a dweller, though importantly not by choice, illegally escapes East Germany, and attempts to retrace the footsteps of his Sattelzeit hero through Italy. However, an exact recreation of the journey is not possible: ← 25 | 26 → his sense of urgency to complete the trip leads him to travel by express train rather than on foot, as in the earlier period.

Furthermore, a comparative approach to the analysis of travel texts is also significant in terms of developing and comparing analytical concepts relevant to the social context of each time period. For example, in the Sattelzeit I argue that a culture founded on mobilities was emerging, and that some people were embarking upon journeys in order to see what travel could make possible in their lives. I analyse the selected travel texts in relation to the notions of the idea of culture, the idea of Bildung, and the development of enabling technology that both promotes travel and travel writing. In the contemporary period, particularly in Chapter 4, however, I argue that, conceptually speaking, there is a shift from exploring what travel can make possible in one’s life – a theme of the Sattelzeit – to the contemporary process of coming to terms with the present moment of intense mobilities. It is therefore possible to ask such questions as, what happens to the notion of Bildung in the contemporary period? In the Sattelzeit, Bildung is a concept largely related to the idea that a natural consequence of travel was the education of the traveller in both senses of the term education, that is: in the sense of acquiring knowledge (e.g. Georg Forster’s fieldwork in New Zealand or the global scientific exploration of Adelbert von Chamisso’s protagonist, Peter Schlemihl),91 and in the sense of personal development or self-formation (which is successful in the case of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s protagonist, Wilhelm Meister, but unsuccessful in the case of Karl Philipp Moritz’s autobiographical protagonist, Anton Reiser). However, in the contemporary period, Bildung takes on the function of coming to terms with the present state of mobilities (e.g. Andrei Ujica’s Out of the Present 1995), and requires one to take responsibility for human-caused relationship breakdowns and environmental damage that have come as a result of increased travel (e.g. Christoph Ransmayr’s Odysseus, Verbrecher (2010)), and finding new ways to build a sense of self-identity and home in a global context increasingly devoid of geographical or cultural fixity. ← 26 | 27 →

Throughout my analysis I keep in mind Goethe’s concern for balancing opposed realms of human experience symbolised by the forms of his Stein des guten Glücks sculpture. Concerning dwelling, mobility and the ideal way of being, or “[d]as Streben nach dem Ausgleich einander wiederstrebender Mächte”, I ask whether the new mobilities are good for us? In other words, does more travel and moving further at ever-increasing speed make our lives better? This is not an easy question to answer and Kaplan strikes an appropriate note of caution when she writes: “The line between the benefit of movement and the threat of uncontrollable change or flow is not always clearly apparent.”92 ← 27 | 28 →

1 German terms are italicised throughout.

2 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Tagebücher: Band I,1 1775–1787, Wolfgang Albrecht und Andreas Döhler, eds (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1998), 40.

3 Susanne Müller-Wolff, Ein Landschaftsgarten im Ilmtal: Die Geschichte des herzoglichen Parks in Weimar (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2007), 61–2.

4 Mimi Sheller and John Urry, “The New Mobilities Paradigm,” Environment and Planning A 38.2 (2006): 207–26.

5 The Stein des guten Glücks may also be said to be representative of Goethe’s view of the Greeks as described by Trevelyan: “we may say that he saw in them a people that had understood better than any other how to give form to life on a great scale. They had had the urge to strike out recklessly and know life to the limit; but they had known also how to keep this urge within bounds so that it never lost itself in formlessness. Greek form might at times be superhumanly vast, but it remained always in form”, Humphry Trevelyan, Goethe and the Greeks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1942), 77.

6 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Ronald Gray, Poems of Goethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 34; 36.

7 Goethe and Gray, 34; 35.

8 Goethe and Gray, 34.

9 Goethe and Gray, 35. This interpretation is based on Gray’s statement: “the sight of the flowing river recalls the transience of things”, Goethe and Gray, 36.

10 Goethe and Gray, 181–2.

11 Goethe and Gray, 181.

12 Goethe and Gray, 182. For more information on the Greek philosopher Heraclitus see Heraclitus (fl. c.500 BCE), 1995, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, <http://www.iep.utm.edu/heraclit/>. Note that access dates for web references are omitted from footnotes but are provided in the bibliography.

13 Goethe and Gray, 183.

14 Where films are cited, the approximate time code is provided.

15 Trevelyan, 85.

16 Reinhart Koselleck, “Einleitung”, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck, eds, Vol. 1 (Stuttgart: Klett Cotta, 1979), XIII-XXVII. Subsequent references take the form Koselleck 1979 followed by the page number. See Chapter 1 for a detailed explanation of the time period referred to as the Sattelzeit.

17 Müller-Wolff, 63. The sculpture was also particularly unusual for the time due to its simplistic form: “Für die damalige Zeit ist das schlichte Steinmonument äußerst ungewöhnlich, ja fortschrittlich: keine Schnörkel, kein Ornament – nur einfache geometrische Formen. Tatsächlich ist der ‘Stein des guten Glücks’ eines der ersten nicht-figürlichen Denkmäler Deutschlands!”, Linon Medien, Audioguidetext zum Goethe Gartenhaus, 2011, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, <http://www.klassik-stiftung.de/uploads/tx_lombkswmargcontent/goethe_gartenhaus_mit_Bildern.pdf>.

18 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Erich Schmidt, ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1980). Subsequent references take the form WML followed by the page number.

19 Georg Forster, A Voyage Round the World, Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof, eds, Vol. 1 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000). Subsequent references take the form VRW followed by the page number.

20 A description of this meeting reads: “Zu den ‘frohesten Stunden’ seines Lebens zählte der Weltumsegler Georg Forster seinen Besuch bei Goethe im September 1785 in Weimar. Kennen gelernt hatten sich die beiden zuvor auf Vermittlung des Goethe-Freundes Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi in Kassel. Forster kam in Begleitung seiner Frau. Zum Abendessen im Haus Goethes waren auch das Ehepaar Herder und Christoph Martin Wieland eingeladen”, Daniel Krüger, Georg Forster, 2012, WeimarLese, <http://www.weimar-lese.de/index.php?article_id=164>. The following year, Goethe set out on his well-known Italian Journey.

21 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Charles Adolphus Buchheim, Goethe’s Italienische Reise: The German Text, with English Notes, Literary and Biographical Introductions, and a Complete Vocabulary (London: David Nutt, 1897).

22 Stephen Spender and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Great Writings of Goethe (New York: Mentor Books, 1958), XIV-XV.

23 Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Goethes Gartenhaus, 2011, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, <http://www.klassik-stiftung.de/ueber-uns/>.

24 Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

25 Museumsladen Weimar, Repliken, 2012, <http://www.museumsshop-weimar.de/index.php?cat=c60_Repliken.html>.

26 Erich Loest, Zwiebelmuster: Roman (Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe, 1985). Subsequent references take the form ZM followed by the page number.

27 Out of the Present, dir. Andrei Ujica, K Films, 1996. Original release date was 1995. Subsequent references take the form OoP followed by the time code.

28 Ulysses’ Gaze, dir. Theodoros Angelopoulos, Madman, 2006. Original release date was 1995. Subsequent references take the form UG followed by the time code.

29 Christoph Ransmayr, Odysseus, Verbrecher: Schauspiel einer Heimkehr (Frankfurt am Main: S, Fischer Verlag, 2010). Subsequent references take the form OV followed by the page number.

30 Müller-Wolff, 63. See Chapter 2, 71, for a discussion on the way in which Goethe utilised the idea of Bildung as a mediating concept between the states of dwelling and movement.

31 In a general sense, military mobilisation has been defined as: “the process of assembling and organizing troops, materiel, and equipment for active military service in time of war […] [which] brings together the military and civilian sectors of society to harness the total power of the nation”, John Whiteclay Chambers, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Military History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 208.

32 Friedrich Kluge, Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, trans. J.F. Davis (London: Bell, 1891).

33 Kluge, 283.

34 On this point Kaes claims that Jünger has, “an understanding of war as the central experience of modernity”, Anton Kaes, “The Cold Gaze: Notes on Mobilization and Modernity,” New German Critique 59 (Spring/Summer 1993): 105–17, 106.

35 For example see “Special Issue on Ernst Jünger,” New German Critique 59 (Spring/Summer 1993).

36 Tijmes 201.

37 Sheller and Urry, 215. See Georg Simmel, Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings (London: Sage Publications, 1997).

38 Ernst Jünger, “Feuer und Bewegung”, Sämtliche Werke: Zweite Abteilung: Essays I: Band 7: Betrachtungen zur Zeit (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1980(a)), 105–18.

39 Ernst Jünger, “Die totale Mobilmachung”, Sämtliche Werke: Zweite Abteilung: Essays I: Band 7: Betrachtungen zur Zeit (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1980(b)), 119–42.

40 Jünger (b), 126.

41 Kaes, 112.

42 Jünger 1980(a), 107. Similarly, in “Die totale Mobilmachung”, Jünger refers to the First World War as “das größte und wirksamste Ereignis dieser Zeit,” Jünger 1980(b), 121.

43 Jünger 1980(a), 108. In a similar vein Kaes writes, “[t]he general process of militarization and mobilization necessitated by the war was not abandoned when the war ended”, 112.

44 Jünger 1980(b), 126.

45 Jünger 1980(b), 140.

46 Jünger 1980(b), 121.

47 Jünger 1980(b), 142.

48 Pieter Tijmes, “Home and Homelessness: Heidegger and Levinas on Dwelling”, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture and Ecology 2.3 (1998): 201–13, 202. Indeed Jünger’s scholarship has had an influence on two academics who engage in thought concerning mobility and technology to which I refer in this study, namely Martin Heidegger and Paul Virilio. For a reflection on the relationship between Jünger and Heidegger see Tijmes. For a reflection on the way in which Jünger influenced ideas concerning automobility in the Interbellum period see Gordon Pirie and Laurent Tissot Gijs Mom, “Encapsulating Culture: European Car Travel, 1900–1940,” Journal of Tourism History 3.3 (2011): 289–307, 298–9; 303–4.

49 For an example of the way in which Jünger’s work influenced Virilio see Kaes, 106.

50 John Urry, “Social Networks, Travel and Talk”, British Journal of Sociology 54.2 (2003): 155–75.

51 Urry 2003, 155.

52 Urry 2003, 156.

53 Urry 2003, 155.

54 Kevin Hannam, Mimi Sheller and John Urry, Editorial: “Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings”, Mobilities 1.1 (2006): 1–22. Subsequent references take the form “Hannam, Sheller and Urry” followed by the page number. I prefer to refer to this turn as the “mobilities turn” rather than “the mobility turn.” The “mobilities turn” has connotations of plural and multidirectional movement as well as semantically differentiating this field of study from conventional understandings of the term “mobility” related only to movement per se.

55 Hannam, Sheller and Urry, 1–2.

56 Sheller and Urry, 207. Interestingly, Sheller and Urry make no mention of Ernst Jünger as influencing mobilities studies.

57 Sheller and Urry, 207.

58 Sheller and Urry, 208.

59 Sheller and Urry, 210.

60 Sheller and Urry, 222.

61 Hannam, Sheller and Urry, 2.

62 Hannam, Sheller and Urry, 3.

63 Mary Louise Pratt, “‘On Staying’, Travel Ideals: Engaging with Spaces of Mobility” (University of Melbourne, 18 July 2012).

64 Pratt’s point can be related to Jünger’s concept of total mobilisation above as a process involving goers (soldiers) and stayers (civilians at home).

65 Sheller and Urry, 208–9.

66 Sheller and Urry, 208.

67 Martin Heidegger, “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken”, Vorträge und Aufsätze (Stuttgart: Günther Neske Pfullingen, 1990), 139–56.

68 Heidegger 1990, 141. The difference between the term wohnen in the first and second instances in the quotation is highlighted in the English translation which refers to each respectively as “dwell” and “find shelter,” Martin Heidegger, “Building, Dwelling, Thinking”, Basic Writings from Being and Time (1927) to the Task of Thinking (1964), David Farrell Krell, ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), 319–39, 325.

69 Homer, The Odyssey of Homer, trans. T.E. Shaw, The World’s Classics (London: Oxford University Press, 1955). I refer to this reference within the text as “Odyssey”. Subsequent references take the form OD followed by the book number and verse number.

70 Heidegger 1990, 139; Heidegger 1978, 323.

71 This term is influenced by Sheller’s and Urry’s observation that Heidegger “talks of dwelling places”, 208.

72 James Clifford, “Traveling Cultures”, Cultural Studies, Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler, eds (New York: Routledge, 1992), 96–116, 102.

73 Sheller and Urry, 214.

74 Tijmes, 202.

75 See Chapter 3, 140–1, for an example of two travellers on the same journey but divided by time, technology and political circumstance and see Chapter 4, 202–3, for an example of an extreme sky diver who jumps from space and can be viewed using internet technology. See also Chapter 2, 72–3, in which I discuss global exploration and the development of international trade during the Sattelzeit.

76 Sheller and Urry, 210.

77 Sheller and Urry, 207, authors’ emphasis.

78 Hannam, Sheller and Urry, 3.

79 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?”, The Geopolitics Reader, Simon Dalby, Paul Routledge and Gearóid Ó Tuathail, eds (London: Routledge, 2006), 107–14.

80 Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?”, Foreign Affairs 72.3 (Summer 1993): 22–49.

81 Clifford, 101.

82 Sheller and Urry, 209.

83 Sheller and Urry, 214.

84 Reinhard Meyer-Kalkus, “World Literature Beyond Goethe”, Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, Stephen Greenblatt, Ines G. Županov, Reinhard Meyer-Kalkus, Heike Paul, Pál Nyíri and Friederike Pannewick, eds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 96–121, 97.

85 Pico Iyer, The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home (London: Bloomsbury, 2000), 166.

86 Andrew Horton, “‘What Do our Souls Seek?’: An Interview with Theo Angelopoulos”, The Last Modernist: The Films of Theo Angelopoulos (Great Britain: Bookcraft, 1997), 96–110, 106.

87 Dan Fainaru, “The Human Experience in One Gaze”, Theo Angelopoulos: Interviews, Dan Fainaru, ed. (Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2001(b)), 93–100, 98. Friedrich Nicolai, a traveller in the Sattelzeit, made comments concerning the importance of writing a journal daily while on the move, so as to prevent fictional elements from entering the account (see Chapter 2, 60–1). Perhaps it could be said that by the contemporary period, mobilities has reached such a point-of-no-return that the producers of travel texts such as Angelopoulos, in a different approach, embrace the mixing of fictional and non-fictional elements catalysed by mobilities and cultural mixing.

88 Karl Philipp Moritz, Anton Reiser:ein autobiographischer Roman, Heinrich Schnabel, ed. (Munich: Martin Morike, 1912). Subsequent references take the form AR followed by the page number.

89 Friedrich Christian Delius, Der Spaziergang von Rostock nach Syrakus: Erzählung (Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 1995). Subsequent references take the form SvR followed by the page number.

90 In reference to transport studies, for example, Clarsen identifies the need “to add historical perspectives to the ‘mobility turn’ in the social sciences”, Georgine Clarsen, “Gender and Mobility: Historicizing the Terms”, Mobility in History: The State of the Art in the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility, Gijs Mom, Gordon Pirie and Laurent Tissot, eds (Neuchatel: Presses Universitaires Suisses, 2009), 235–41, 235.

91 Adelbert von Chamisso, Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (Ulm: Ebner, 1976). Subsequent references take the form PS followed by the page number.

92 Caren Kaplan, “Mobility and War: the Cosmic View of US Air Power”, Environment and Planning A 38.2 (2006): 395–407, 396.

← 28 | 29 →


An Emerging Mobilities Culture

← 29 | 30 →

← 30 | 31 →


The Sattelzeit, 1770–1830

In this chapter I examine a corpus of travel texts which were written between approximately 1770 and 1830, the period of major transition referred to by Koselleck as the “saddle period” (1979).1 Examples from the various texts are used as evidence to adduce signs of a major cultural shift which took place during this time – a culture, I venture, founded on an early idea of mobilities. The selected texts spanning the saddle period comprise, in order of analysis,2 Johann Gottfried Herder’s Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769 (1846),3 Georg Forster’s A Voyage Round the World (1777), Friedrich Nicolai’s Beschreibung einer Reise durch Deutschland und die Schweiz im Jahr 1781 (1788),4 Karl Philipp Moritz’s Anton Reiser (1785–6), Johann ← 31 | 32 → Wolfgang Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–6), Adelbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814) and Joseph von Eichendorff’s Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (1826).5 In the analysis of these texts I investigate the ways in which each writer expresses a “discursive desire” (Batchen) to travel.6 In addition, I look at supplements to the new experiences of each figure as they accommodate themselves to new ways of being in an increasingly mobile modern world. Broadly speaking, these supplements may be grouped into the following three categories: the idea of culture, the idea of Bildung, and the development of enabling technology for travel and travel writing.

Before discussing Koselleck’s conception of the Sattelzeit, I provide an explanation of my analytical approach to this chapter. The argument I put forward follows the approach adopted by Geoffrey Batchen in his essay “Desiring Production”, from his study, Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History.7 “Desiring Production” addresses the history of the emergence of photography.8 Batchen emphasises that the traditional way of conceptualising photography has mainly been in terms of a relatively fixed “originary event”. Referring to the 1839 technological achievements of Louis Daguerre of France and William Henry Fox Talbot of England he explains: “The invention of photography has become the stable platform on which all the medium’s many subsequent forms are presumed to be ← 32 | 33 → founded.”9 Alluding to Derrida, Batchen notes that, rather than posing the “troubling philosophical question” of what photography is, historians have preferred to pin down the emergence of photography to the time and place of its invention.10 As an alternative, Batchen proposes a more complex reading of this history in which he considers not only the commonly accepted “originary event”, but also “the wider significance of the timing of photography’s emergence into our culture.”11 In this way, “a beginning that was once thought to be fixed and dependable is now revealed as a problematic field of mutable historical differences.”12 The key question in this line of enquiry is not one concerning the (one) inventor of photography, but rather: “At what moment in history did the discursive desire to photograph emerge and begin to manifest itself insistently?”13 Batchen seeks to answer this question by surveying a number of individuals, mostly from European countries or the United States, who “recorded or subsequently claimed for themselves the pre-1839 onset of a desire to photograph[.]”14 According to his findings, these expressions date back to 1794, and he calls this group “the proto-photographers”.15

In a similar way to Batchen, in my analysis of travel texts of the Sattelzeit, I do not explicitly affix a single specific individual, date or location to the emergence of a culture founded on mobilities. Instead, I look ← 33 | 34 → to various literary sources and identify signs that implicitly show how the experience of movement and travel were gradually becoming an integral part of (certain) people’s lives and everyday habits. Hence, following Batchen, I ask the question, at what moment in history did the discursive desire to travel (as opposed to dwelling) and to produce travel writing emerge and begin to manifest itself insistently?16 In this chapter I provide an answer to this question by suggesting that, first, this discursive desire emerged at a number of moments during the saddle period, and, second, that the experiences described in the travel texts of the Sattelzeit generate “supplements” (Derrida) that relate to and are of significance for the contemporary period of new mobilities which I examine in Part II.17 For these reasons, one may regard these writers expressing a desire to travel and to produce travel writing as proto-mobilities travellers, voyagers of the Sattelzeit period.

I now take a closer look at Koselleck’s concept of the Sattelzeit, which he defines in the introduction to Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland (1979). Like Batchen, rather than constructing a “stable platform” on which to nail down, so-to-speak, events, inventors and the like, Koselleck takes up a wider, more complex position. He does so by detailing the mobilisation of people, new ideas and ideologies during the Sattelzeit, which took over from the preceding (pre-Sattelzeit) time of relative stability, or mobility-singular. Specifically, Koselleck takes an etymological approach to observe the way in which the meaning of words changed as a result of the wider social, ← 34 | 35 → cultural and political transitions occurring during this significant era in the transition to modernity:

Der heuristische Vorgriff der Lexikonarbeit besteht in der Vermutung, daß sich seit der Mitte des achtzehten Jahrhunderts ein tiefgreifender Bedeutungswandel klassischer topoi vollzogen, daß alte Worte neue Sinngehalte gewonnen haben, die mit Annäherung an unsere Gegenwart keiner Übersetzung mehr bedürftig sind. Der heuristische Vorgriff führt sozusagen eine “Sattelzeit” ein, in der sich die Herkunft zu unserer Präsenz wandelt.[…] Alte Begriffe haben sich in ihrem Bedeutungsgehalt den sich verändernden Bedingungen der modernen Welt angepaßt.18

Koselleck emphasises that the semantic overhaul in the meanings of words and categories taking place during the saddle period was characterised by large-scale change or vicissitude, and variation. This is made apparent when he refers to changes in meaning (“Bedeutungswandel”), a new focus on the present moment rather than origins (“die Herkunft zu unserer Präsenz wandelt”),19 and vicissitudinary general circumstance (“den sich verändernden Bedingungen”). The Sattelzeit may thus be generally understood as a significant period of transition. Within the Sattelzeit, old concepts are moulded and adapted to meet the changing conditions of the modern world. In a similar vein, Derrida argues: “[E]very conceptual breakthrough amounts to transforming, that is to say deforming, an accredited, authorized relationship between a word and a concept, between a trope and what one had every interest to consider to be an unshiftable primary sense, a proper, literal or current usage.”20 Taking both Koselleck’s and Derrida’s points together, the Sattelzeit is defined by the degree to which the formation of ← 35 | 36 → supplementary notions becomes necessary. I further conjecture here that the terminology Koselleck has chosen to denote this changeover phase, viz. Sattelzeit, reconciles or bridges the two opposing concepts of dwelling and mobility. The term Sattel takes its meaning from a Bergsattel, or high ridge, but it is indeed ultimately derived from the word for saddle. On closer inspection, the metaphorical meaning of ridge relates to stasis, and thus connects on a semantic-etymological level with the paradigm of dwelling. However, saddle in the literal meaning does provide for a sense of movement, indeed requires it; it is a moving point that enables travel, and therefore connects with the mobilities paradigm. It is thus inferred that mobility must always be understood in relation to dwelling, and vice versa – they are not isolated concepts. This is a point also underscored by Clifford in his seminal 1992 text “Traveling Cultures”: “in my terms, cultural dwelling cannot be considered except in specific historical relations with cultural traveling, and vice versa.”21

If indeed the Sattelzeit marks a changeover phase from a culture founded on dwelling to the emergence of a culture founded on mobilities, it follows that another key concept of this period is that of movement. As Koselleck writes below, the intensification and alteration of movement may be viewed as the defining force behind the myriad of changes taking place:

Der heuristische Vorgriff führt also zu einer Schwerpunktbildung, die […] nach Wandel oder Umbruch durch revolutionäre Bewegung bestimmt ist. Alle Begriffsgeschichten zusammen bezeugen neue Sachverhalte, ein sich änderndes Verhältnis zu Natur und Geschichte, zur Welt und zur Zeit, kurz: den Beginn der “Neuzeit.”22

So how did these mobilised and changing conceptual relations to nature, history, time and the world play out at the level of human experience? Time in this new era, to take one example, was experienced in a new way. No longer was time perceived as even and linear, but increasingly as accelerated and disjointed, Koselleck suggests: “[D]ie ‘Neuzeit’ aufgrund ihres beschleunigten Erfahrungswandels [ist] auch als eine ‘neue Zeit’ erfahren ← 36 | 37 → worden.”23 Further, whereas in the pre-Sattelzeit period the world was predominantly conceived of from a fixed viewpoint, for the Sattelzeit traveller “[p]lötzlich aufbrechende, schließlich anhaltende Veränderungen machen den Erfahrungshorizont beweglich[.]”24 Thus a new experience of time is an important part of the shift from mobility-singular to mobilites-plural. For Johann Gottfried Herder, for example, the movement of travelling at sea during his journey of 1769 dramatically changed the way in which he experienced and thought about the space that he was traversing. Rather than considering himself to be in – or be in relation to – a bordered country, Herder perceived himself in a nationless space. He explains:

Man bildet sich ein, daß man auf Meeren, indem man Länder und Weltteile vorbeifliegt, man viel von ihnen denken werde; allein diese Länder und Weltteile sieht man nicht. Sie sind nur fernher stehende Nebel, und so sind auch meistens die Ideen von ihnen für gemeine Seelen. Es ist kein Unterschied ob das jetzt kurische, preußische, pommersche, dänische, schwedische, norwegische, holländische, englische, französische Meer ist: wie unsre Schiffahrt geht, ist’s nur überall Meer. Die Schiffahrt der Alten war hierin anders. (JmR 19)

As indicated at the end of the quotation, Herder was also aware that this point marked a change in the thinking of former times. Indeed the practice of sailing at sea was not uncommon, but previously the point of reference (the nation) remained fixed.25 Now, in this so-called Sattelzeit, it was this point of reference itself which moved, or blurred into insignificance.

From the arguments above and the brief illustration taken from Herder’s Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769, two of the foundations of Koselleck’s Sattelzeit are the prevalence of change and movement. Heidegger also considers issues of mobility and dwelling. Like Koselleck, he looks to etymology to further his arguments in this area.26 However, in contrast to Koselleck, ← 37 | 38 → Heidegger, a strong advocate of the dwelling paradigm, foregrounds the idea of (returning to) origins and stasis (remaining in dwelling-places). In his essay “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken,” for example, Heidegger writes:

Der Zuspruch über das Wesen einer Sache kommt zu uns aus der Sprache, vorausgesetzt, daß wir deren eigenes Wesen achten. […] Was heißt nun bauen? Das althochdeutsche Wort für bauen, “buan,” bedeutet wohnen. Dies besagt: bleiben, such aufhalten. Die eigentliche Bedeutung des Zeitwortes bauen, nämlich wohnen, ist uns verlorengegangen.27

Here Heidegger constructs a defence against the perceived threat of mobilities. In his view, we can look to the essence of language – in this case, Old High German, the earliest form of the German language – to find and return to the ideal original state of living that we have lost, that is, to dwell or stay in a place. Rather than launching into a life on the move (as Herder did in 1769), our desire should be to remain and commit to the tasks of “hegen und pflegen, nämlich den Acker bauen, Reben bauen.”28 Heidegger idealised the early Greek way of life and conceivably, just prior to writing this particular passage, he had read Book 24 of the pre-Sattelzeit text Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, the hero returned to Ithaca, “reached the flourishing estate of Laertes” and “found his father alone in the neat vineyard, hoeing round a vinestock” (OD, 24: V.205–6; 226–7).29

Despite their shared etymological approach, Heidegger would almost certainly regard Koselleck as one who does not respect “das Wesen […] der Sprache.” Rather than focusing on origins or essence, Koselleck regards ← 38 | 39 → words as ever-changing mobile carriers of meaning.30 To refer back to Koselleck’s quotation above, words are seen as phenomena which change over time (“alte Worte [, die] neue Sinngehalte gewonnen haben”), and which lose their semantic content in new contexts, hence becoming separated from the past (“Worte […] die mit Annäherung an unsere Gegenwart keiner Übersetzung mehr bedürftig sind”). In the saddle period the search for linguistic or conceptual essence seems obsolete; this was a time when origins gave way to presence (“eine “Sattelzeit” […] in der sich die Herkunft zu unserer Präsenz wandelt”). Herder, for example, while travelling in 1769, felt it appropriate never to lose sight of living in the present moment, “an das, was vor mir liegt, [zu] denken […] immer die Gegenwart [zu] genießen” (JmR 123). In Koselleck’s Sattelzeit, earlier concepts simply changed meaning to adapt to the modern world, a world in which a culture founded on mobilities was emerging.31 It is this critical stance of the essential, of the dubious nature of a fixed, isolated and un-changing original, where Batchen, in his idea of proto-photography, Koselleck, in his concept of the Sattelzeit, and Derrida, in his notion of the supplement, converge, as emphasised when the latter theorist writes: “It is the strange essence of a supplement not to have any essentiality[.]”32 ← 39 | 40 →

When noting the different approaches to research on dwelling and mobility, one should also take into consideration the period in which the scholar is writing in relation to the time in which he is theorising. Could it be that Heidegger, presenting his 1951 essay “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken” had detected and was responding to the potential emergence of the new mobilities of the post-1989–90 period? Was his focus on the historical essence of early (German) language, on the behaviours of early (Greek) peoples, and, generally speaking, on the pre-Sattelzeit period an attempt to reverse change? Could it also be that Koselleck, writing in the late 1970s, had also sensed this change? Yet, recognising its imminence, Koselleck had instead attempted to understand what might be happening by locating precursory changes in thought and culture, in the Sattelzeit period?

1 Koselleck starts the saddle period at around 1770, as evidenced when he writes “seit etwa 1770 eine Fülle neuer Worte und Wortbedeutungnen auftauchen, Zeugnisse neuer Welterfassung, die gesamte Sprache induzieren” (XV). Koselleck does not specify an exact end to the Sattelzeit and there is some discrepancy over an end year. However, it is generally understood to be centred around 1800 or the transition to modernity. I place the end of the Sattelzeit at 1830, in accordance with Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, ed., The Cambridge History of German Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 204.

2 I have ordered the analysis of text according to the chronological order in which the writer’s journey itself was experienced/ took place, or, in the case of those autobiographical and fictional texts, according to the original date of publication which approximately reflects on the point in time in which the writer felt a desire to write about his own or his protagonist’s mobile experience of the Sattelzeit.

3 A. Gillies, ed., Johann Gottfried Herder: Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1947). Subsequent references take the form JmR followed by the page number.

4 Friedrich Nicolai, Beschreibung einer Reise durch Deutschland und die Schweiz im Jahr 1781 (Berlin and Stettin: Georg Olms Verlag, 1788), <http://books.google.de/booksid=jfkOAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Beschreibung+einer+Reise+durch+Deutschland&hl=de&ei=rMI0TfvLGYWevgPM0cj0Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false>. Subsequent references take the form BeR followed by the page number.

5 Joseph von Eichendorff and Carel Ter Haar, Joseph von Eichendorff: Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts: Text, Materialien, Kommentar (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1977). Subsequent references take the form LeT followed by the page number.

6 Geoffrey Batchen, “Desiring Production”, Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 2–24.

7 Batchen. 2–24.

8 Photography is relevant to the idea of the gaze in the subsequent analysis of films.

9 Batchen, 3, my emphasis. More specifically Batchen writes: “It was on January 7, 1839, in the form of a speech by Francois Argo to the French Academy of Sciences, that the invention of photography was officially announced to the world. Further enthusiastic speeches about Louis Daguerre’s amazing image-making process were subsequently made […] [and] within a few months the daguerreotype had found its way to almost every corner of the globe”, 3.

10 Batchen, 3.

11 Batchen, 4.

12 Batchen, 24.

13 Batchen, 5.

14 Batchen, 6. Batchen notes that this group he has identified is, “undoubtedly an incomplete and still speculative one”, 6. Rather than pinning down and closing off this group, Batchen is open to the emergence of new evidence and the possibility to extend or amend his group.

15 Batchen, 6. Batchen also discusses contemporaries of the proto-photographers expressing similar desires including a painter and a poet.

16 In the context of my analysis, the term insistently is not to be understood as concerning a huge-scale number of travellers or travel writers, but rather a gradual, yet insistent, irrepressible multifaceted transition to a culture founded on mobilities.

17 My use of the notion of the supplement is loosely based on Jacques Derrida’s formulation of this concept as described in his monograph Of Grammatology. The original French edition is: Jacques Derrida, De la Grammatologie (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1967). The English translation is: Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976). Generally speaking, a supplement may be understood as “something that, allegedly secondarily, comes to serve as an aid to something ‘original’ or ‘natural’”, Jack Reynolds, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida: Intertwining Embodiment and Alterity (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004), 52.

18 Koselleck 1979, XV.

19 Here Koselleck’s concept of the Sattelzeit is very similar to Batchen’s approach to the analysis of photography, which, “has little to do with a desire to reveal photography’s essential characteristics as a medium […] [but] is, rather, an effort to evoke directly the lived experience of history, a reminder that history is continually unfolding itself in the materiality of the present – in the presentness of whatever photograph, from whatever era, happens to be before us”, IX-X. This comment is also interesting when compared to David Harvey’s statement “present is all there is”, see Chapter 3, 106–7.

20 Cited in Nicholas Royle, Jacques Derrida, Routledge Critical Thinkers (London: Routledge, 2003), 49.

21 Clifford, 115.

22 Koselleck 1979, XV, my emphasis.

23 Koselleck 1979, XV.

24 Koselleck 1979, XV.

25 The point of reference here could also be in the city, as it was in ancient times of Greek and Roman Antiquity.

26 It is not surprising in some ways that Koselleck’s and Heidegger’s methodological approaches converged, as there was a period in which they were exposed to the same scholarly influence. Keith Tribe, translator of Koselleck’s work writes: “Koselleck had direct contact with Heidegger: during the late 1940s and early 1950s Heidegger was a regular visitor to the Heidelberg seminars of Gadamer and Löwith that Koselleck also attended” Reinhard Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), XI.

27 Heidegger 1990, 140.

28 Heidegger 1990, 141.

29 It is this kind of image, i.e. of a flourishing estate in Ithaca which Heidegger may have had in mind when avoiding travel to Greece, see Conclusion, 219. Paradoxically, Laertes is portrayed as a very unhappy character, however it is perhaps because he stays in his dwelling-place that Odysseus is able to find him, and Laertes is able to find joy again.

30 Koselleck elaborates on this point and the way in which his opinion differs to Heideggarian perspectives in the following interview extract: “language is always ambiguous. […] On one hand it indicates social change and on the other it is an essential factor that allows us to become conscious of changes in reality. Gadamer did not accept this ambiguity in language. For him, following Heidegger’s footsteps, language implicitly contains the totality of experience”, Javiér Fernández and Fuentes Sebastián, Juan Francisco, “Conceptual History, Memory, and Identity: An Interview with Reinhart Koselleck”, Contributions to the History of Concepts, 2 (March 2006): 99–128, 126.

31 This is epitomised in the phrase cited above: “Alte Begriffe haben sich in ihrem Bedeutungsgehalt den sich verändernden Bedingungen der modernen Welt angepaßt”, Koselleck 1979, XV.

32 Derrida 1976, 314. Further to this point, Derrida notes that it is impossible to arrest the concept of the supplement: “One wishes to go back from the supplement from the source: one must recognize that there is a supplement at the source”, Derrida 1976, 304.

← 40 | 41 →


Sattelzeit Journeys

Johann Gottfried Herder’s Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769 (1846)

The way in which changes in movement and time led to a mobilised and shifting horizon of experience (Erfahrungshorizont) during the Sattelzeit is exemplified in Johann Gottfried Herder’s Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769. The journey begins when Herder, a rather restless figure, makes a sudden departure from his adopted home of Riga. A prominent educator and teacher, Herder’s leave-taking of Riga was abrupt and unanticipated by many: “[Herder] suddenly electrified his fellow-citizens in May 1769, by resigning his charges in school and church and immediately afterwards leaving the city by sea.”1 The inability to lead a peaceful life in his dwelling-place amid an out-of-hand muddle of largely self-caused problems resulted in Herder’s decision in favour of a mobile life. Herder explains: “Ich gefiel mir nicht als Gesellschafter […] als Schullehrer […] als Bürger […] als Autor […] Alles war mir zuwider. […] Ich mußte also reisen […,] so schleunig, übertäubend und fast abenteuerlich reisen, als ich konnte” (JmR 1). “It was very much like running away – running away from an impossible set of circumstances”, writes Gillies.2 “D[ie] sich verändernden Bedingungen” of the Sattelzeit are thus evident in the dramatic transformations in Herder’s life as an individual and in the “impossible circumstances” of his dwelling-life. As ← 41 | 42 → he literally cast himself adrift, one may observe Herder’s Erfahrungshorizont, and, in particular, the way in which his mode of thinking was mobilised:

So denkt man, wenn man aus Situation in Situation tritt, und was gibt ein Schiff, das zwischen Himmel und Meer schwebt, nicht für weite Sphäre zu denken! Alles gibt hier dem Gedanken Flügel und Bewegung und weiten Luftkreis. (JmR 4)

In addition to a newfound sense of freedom and movement in terms of his thinking, Herder also revelled in the discovery of how it would be possible to read while moving, that is, “lesend schlendern zu können” (JmR 123). Note here that the term schlendern is significant for two reasons. First, the emphasis is again placed on the movement, rather than the activity of reading (Herder did not choose to write “schlendernd lesen”). Second, schlendern has connotations of relaxation and enjoyment, a further positive association with mobility. Homer’s Odyssey was one of Herder’s recommended books to read while on the move, because, as he notes, “Es gibt tausend neue und natürlichere Erklärungen der Mythologie oder vielmehr tausend innigere Empfindungen ihrer ältesten Poeten, wenn man […] zu Schiffe liest” (JmR 14).3 Herder elaborates: “So fliegt man mit den Fittichen des Windes und schifft mit dem abenteuerlichen Seehelden, statt daß jetzt die Bewegung des Geistes und Körpers entgegenstreben” (JmR 19). One can better understand and make literal and metaphorical connections by moving with the mythical heroes of the sea, such as Odysseus, when one is travelling oneself, reading and sailing on the move. It is almost as if Herder is trying to bring Homer’s pre-Sattelzeit text up-to-date by advocating a Sattelzeit hermeneutic method – mobile reading.

As an early Sattelzeit travel writer, Herder’s general stance on the merits of a mobile life as opposed to a more settled dwelling-life with which the ← 42 | 43 → Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769 is imbued, makes him appear as a thinker before his time. To Herder, travelling brings a sense of freedom and opens up the mind and spirit to new ways of thinking and being. Herder is at sea after leaving Riga when he writes:

Auf der Erde ist man an einen toten Punkt angeheftet und in den engen Kreis einer Situation eingeschlossen. […] wo sind die, für denen ich mich fürchtete, und die ich liebte? … O Seele, wie wird dir’s sein, wenn du aus dieser Welt hinaustrittst? Der enge, fest, eingeschränkte Mittelpunkt ist verschwunden, du flatterst in den Lüften oder schwimmst auf einem Meere – die Welt verschwindet dir – ist unter dir verschwunden! – Welch neue Denkart! (JmR 4–5)

The world to which Herder refers to above, is a restrictive and repressive place of dwelling, which he emphasises in his use of evocative terminology, such as “angeheftet”, “eingeschlossen”, “eng” and “eingeschränkt”. He has managed to escape this “homogene Gesellschaft” (JmR 5). He has entered a nationless space in which his spirit and his capacity to think have been freed, opened up and allowed to move in new ways (“du flatterst in den Lüften oder schwimmst auf einem Meere”). Moving brings freedom to one’s life yet moving is also avoidance – evasion of the pain and stress that are inevitably a part of human interaction. As such dwelling-life has associations with death, emotional turmoil, and the restriction of movement and life experience (“man [ist] an einen toten Punkt angeheftet”). Not surprisingly, this view is in stark contrast to Heidegger’s antithetical view of dwelling which, derived from the Gothic, wunian, means “zufrieden sein, zum Frieden gebracht, in ihm bleiben.”4 “Die Sterblichen wohnen”, opines Heidegger “[…] damit ein guter Tod sei.”5

However, perhaps the positive/negative delineation between the abovementioned early advocates of dwelling and mobilities is not quite as clear cut as it may first appear. While Herder extols a sense of new found freedom from being on-the-move, it turns out that this does not come without cost. Without his doting students around him, and in the knowledge, deep down, that he ran away, Herder is simultaneously stuck in an ← 43 | 44 → intense process of self-examination (as indicated when he says “O Seele, wie wird dir’s sein[?]”), and, ultimately, harrowing self-pity. The act of leaving everything behind, he writes, “kostet Tränen, Reue, Herauswindung aus dem Alten – Selbstverdammung!” (JmR 5). Gillies takes note of this darker side of Herder’s journey and the effect that it had on the content of the Sattelzeit travel text: “His diary is no ordinary one. It is not a description of his journey.”6 In fact, claims Gillies: “The whole Reisejournal is one long regret and accusation. He has no good to say either of himself or of any of the countries he saw.”7 Escaping responsibility for the relationships of one’s dwelling place means facing oneself, and Herder, it seems, did not like what he saw.

However, a positive turning point came for Herder when he began to look outward, take a wider view of the world and open up to new ways of thinking about the idea of culture.8 In his typically dramatic style, Herder’s thoughts moved from himself to considering the position of humankind in general. It was sailing at sea and removing himself, both physically and mentally, from the binds of the nation which allowed for this progression.9 Gillies describes this shift as follows:

The sea gave Herder a sense of freedom. […] It enabled him to indulge his thoughts to the full. […] The urge to study human origins, so as to be able to prophesy the future, became increasingly entrancing. […] Where is all this to lead to but the whole history of humanity? Herder sets out his purpose with the most engaging positiveness.10

It is almost as if being physically mobile is catalyst to the psychological process of moving one’s thoughts forward and outward at a faster pace. One may observe this process in Herder’s own words in the following passage. Here, he again alludes to mobile reading (in this instance, to gain better understanding of scientific texts), to the emancipation of the mind while ← 44 | 45 → travelling at sea, and, finally, to the transition from questioning himself, to the pursuit of knowledge regarding mankind and its origins. Herder writes:

Und ich, wenn ich Nollet und Kästner und Newton lesen werde, auch ich will unter den Mast stellen, wo ich saß, und den Funken der Elektrizität vom Stoß der Welle bis ins Gewitter führen, und den Druck des Wassers bis zum Druck der Luft und der Winde erheben, und die Bewegung des Schiffes, um welche sich das Wasser umschließt, bis zur Gestalt und Bewegung der Gestirne verfolgen, und nicht eher aufhören, bis ich mir alles selbst weiß, da ich bis jetzt mir selbst nichts weiß. […] Welches der Ursprung des Menschengeschlechts, der Erfindungen und Künste und Religionen? […] Universalgeschichte der Bildung der Welt! (JmR 6–10)

The supplementary idea of culture based on humanity beyond nations that arose from Herder’s travel experience around the beginning of the Sattelzeit had influence on subsequent scholars. These included prominent Italian political theorist/activist Giuseppe Mazzini who was engaged with such ideas as the Sattelzeit was coming to an end.11 Herder’s influence is clearly evident in Mazzini’s theory of humanity, which he sets out in texts such as The Duties of Man (Doveri dell’uomo) of 1860. In The Duties of Man, ← 45 | 46 → Mazzini outlines the principles by which he believes his audience, men of the Italian working class, should live.12 Of foremost importance here is man’s duty toward humanity: “[N]ever forget that your first duties – duties without fulfilling which, you cannot rightfully fulfil those towards your country and family – are towards Humanity.”13 Thus, like Herder, Mazzini emphasises the cultural dimension of humanity beyond (though not precluding) nations, as evidenced in the following: “In whatsoever land you live, wheresoever there arises a man to combat for the right, the just, and the true, that man is your brother.”14 Mazzini even went so far as to claim that as a new focus on mankind takes hold, “[d]istinctions of Country […] may possibly disappear.”15

Despite the convergence of their ideas, it should be noted that Herder, in Journal meiner Reise, was generally advocating a life on the move, whereas Mazzini encouraged a dwelling-life that supports humanity as a whole. This is intimated when Mazzini writes that losing one’s family leaves one “wander[ing] restless and unhappy.”16

Generally speaking, Herder recognised that a travelling lifestyle had the potential to have both positive and detrimental effects, and again, this may be seen as symptomatic of the “[p]lötzlich aufbrechende […]Veränderungen”, of the Sattelzeit, whereby (physical) movement brings about (emotional) change. For example, in the same stream of thought Herder quickly goes from exclaiming, “Welch neue Denkart!” to experiencing an overwhelming sensation of “Selbstverdammung!” Perhaps it was (and is) this ability to feel and learn from such extremities of emotion within a foreign or previously unknown space which drove the Sattelzeit ← 46 | 47 → travellers to either become wedded to travel and a mobile lifestyle, or, to subsequently reject this kind of mobile lifestyle in favour of returning to a more settled life of dwelling. Like Herder, the following Sattelzeit traveller, Georg Forster was to undergo a dramatic expansion and change in his thinking as a result of sailing vast distances across the sea.

Georg Forster’s A Voyage Round the World (1777)

Georg Forster was exposed to mobility from an early age. In 1765, at the age of eleven, he travelled from Germany to Russia with his father, natural scientist and Protestant Minister Johann Reinhold Forster. On this journey, the younger Forster learned about mapping, scientific exploration and researching colonial settlements.17 In 1766, the Forsters, Junior and Senior, moved to England where they worked on translating travelogues. Even when Georg Forster was not on the move, he was still intensely engaged in ideas and experiences of mobility. Moreover, through his translation of travel texts he helped to disseminate knowledge of travel in Europe and elsewhere by making it accessible to speakers of other languages.18

On 13 July 1772, at the age of eighteen, Georg Forster joined his father as a crewman on Captain Cook’s second voyage on the Resolution to the regions of the Pacific and Antarctic. Father and son were a last-minute addition to the crew after the resignation of the British botanist, Joseph ← 47 | 48 → Banks.19 Forster described their general role as “to collect, describe, and draw the objects of natural history which we might expect to meet with during our course” (VRW 17).20 Those crewmen on board Cook’s ship Resolution who were of note in Georg Forster’s eyes included: “The greatest navigator of his time [Captain James Cook], two able astronomers [William Bayly and William Wales],21 a man of science to study nature in all her recesses [Johann Reinhold Forster], and a painter [William Hodges] to copy some of her most curious productions” (VRW 5). The journey was on a grand scale in terms of both the distance covered and gathering scientific and ethnographic information. “Thus,” writes Forster in retrospect, “after escaping innumerable dangers, and suffering a long series of hardships, we happily completed a voyage, which had lasted three years and sixteen days; in the course of which, it is computed we run over a greater space of sea than any ship ever did before us; since, taking all our tracks together, they form more than thrice the circumference of the globe” (VRW 684).

Like Friedrich Nicolai, those aboard the Resolution and her partner vessel the Adventure had a clear common purpose to their journey: they were on “A VOYAGE to explore the high southern latitudes of our globe,” and to determine the possible existence of the Great Southern Continent, or Terra Australis Incognita – literally “the unknown land of the south” (VRW 17). This followed a long history of Europeans imagining and mapping the space of Australia in pre-Sattelzeit times. Batchen discusses the conceptualisation of Australia as “a potent site for the discourses of European desire” for some 2000 years, “[f]rom the Pythagorean perspective of the ancient Greeks, who projected an unknown southern continent as a necessary Antipodean ← 48 | 49 → other to their Northern Hemisphere, to the satirical vision of Swift’s 1726 Gulliver’s Travels,22 which is strategically set in an unmapped space on the globe near what was to become Adelaide.”23 Forster was part of a group of travellers in the Sattelzeit who were able to successfully physically realise the exploration of this area, on which note Forster writes “[t]he principal view of our expedition, the search after a southern continent within the bounds of the temperate zone, was fulfilled” (VRW 684). However, there was something that occurred as a result of the trip which Forster most likely did not anticipate. In the process of making ethnographic observations, his ideas about culture – in particular, regarding the traditional binary between so-called barbarians and civilised peoples – would undergo a dramatic process of change, and ultimately set the younger Forster apart from his father in terms of his thinking.

New Zealand was to Forster, “ein anthropologisches Laboratorium besonderer Art”, a previously unexplored area in which to carry out ethnographic description and the cataloguing of flora and fauna.24 Forster was thus a distinctive writer of the Sattelzeit narrating his experiences of “ein sich änderndes Verhältnis zu Natur und […] zur Welt.”25 Thomas and Berghof outline the complexities of his writing style and content in the following: “Forster’s ethnographic reportage is extensive, rich, and particular; it also features the summary distillations and sweeping judgements endemic in travel writing, though these tend to be advanced at one moment and qualified or contradicted at the next.”26

One point of interest in the ethnographic details of A Voyage Round the World on which Forster appears to both advance and contradict is the ← 49 | 50 → relationship between travel and dwelling. He refers to the Māori as “natives” or “New Zeelanders”, and in so doing suggests that they were regarded as the indigenous dwellers of this area vis-à-vis the travelling Europeans (VRW 102). However, as Forster spent more time in New Zealand and had more encounters with Māori, the lines of this boundary became blurred. To begin with, it seemed that the Māori family Forster encountered at Dusky Bay dwelled in an almost idyllic Heideggarian sense: “so secluded from the rest of the world, in a spacious bay”, with “a superfluity of food” and “all the necessaries of life” (VRW 103). Yet, over time Forster came to suspect that they, “lead a nomadic or wandering life, and remove according to the season, the conveniency of fishing, and other circumstances” (VRW 103). Still, such movements appeared to be within the realm of acceptability. However, when the Māori family “made signs of going to kill men”, Forster quickly switches to writing about the “state of barbarism, in which the New Zeelanders may justly be said to live” and “their innate and savage valour” (VRW 103). He could not understand why they would want to leave such a peaceful and plentiful dwelling-place to go to war, even though, in this case, the Māori indicated that they were going to war after having received a number of hatchets from Cook’s crew (VRW 102).

Were the Māori family in fact, driven to war after having had acquired these European weapons? Despite the grand-scale and unprecedented nature of Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand, Forster did not understand a great deal of Māori language and thus his knowledge of Māori culture was limited to what he could interpret from observation and interaction. He knew little, for example, of the early history of Māori mobility and the phenomenal navigation skills they possessed: Polynesian explorers had already crossed the Pacific Ocean and discovered New Zealand sometime between AD 500 and 1000, “at a time when European seamen were still hugging the shoreline as they sailed from port to port along their coastlines.”27

As Forster spent more time among Māori he began to think more about the relationship between the European sailors and the New Zealand Māori and how this, in turn, problematises wider human issues such as ← 50 | 51 → the binary between cultural groups referred to by some Europeans at the time as “civilised” and “barbarian” peoples and the stigmatisation of cannibalism. Forster comes to call into question his initial stance that the European travellers are superior to and can better the lives of the “savage” Māori dwellers. One may understand his changing idea of culture as a supplementary notion arising in response to the changing conditions referred to in Koselleck’s definition of the Sattelzeit: that is, the traditional ideas (or “klassische topoi”) regarding the dichotomy of “barbarian”/ “civilised” man are problematised as a result of unprecedented long distance travel and extended interaction with Māori (an example of the “sich verändernden Bedingungen der modernen Welt”).28 This transition to a new way of thinking was, however, by no means a simple process. Forster’s at times highly contradictory statements concerning European and Māori, travelling and dwelling, reflect an internal fluctuation. On the one hand, the Europeans had an “extended sphere of knowledge” and the crewmen were to execute duties so as to promote an easier transition to the future (British) colonial dwelling-life in New Zealand (VRW 128). On the other hand, Forster often demonstrated a great degree of respect for Māori, their culture and way of living, and came to question whether he and his comrades could or should actually attempt improve their lives and extend their “narrow views” (VRW 128).

This line of thinking was likely influenced to some degree by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1750 “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts,” also known as the “First Discourse.29 In this highly controversial essay, Rousseau criticises the enlightened knowledge of civilised peoples, condemning “the ← 51 | 52 → vanity and vacuousness of those proud titles which dazzle us and which we so gratuitously place on human knowledge”, and finding fault with “the labors of our most enlightened learned men and our best Citizens [which] provide us with so little that is useful.”30 Forster’s dilemma over whether the Europeans and the knowledge they bought with them actually improved the lives of Māori comes to a head at a particular point in the narrative: here he ponders the possible causes of sexually transmitted infections transferred between Māori women and European sailors at Queen Charlotte’s Sound and what he viewed as the general moral corruption of Māori.31 Initially, he concludes that “the venereal disease was indigenous in New Zealand, and not imported by Europeans”, but goes on to attenuate this stance somewhat (VRW 136):

But if, in spite of appearances, our conclusions should prove to be erroneous, it is another crime added to the score of civilized nations, which must make their memory execrated by the unhappy people, whom they have poisoned. Nothing can in the least atone for the injury they have done to society, since the price at which their libidinous ← 52 | 53 → enjoyments were purchased, instils another poison in the mind, and destroys the moral principles, while the disease corrupts and enervates the body. (VRW 136–7)

In reference to this passage, Bohls and Duncan claim that here Forster has turned 180 degrees on his initial position. They suggest Forster now believes “the common sailors, ignorant, hardened, licentious, are the true savages.”32 However, I would argue that this is an oversimplification. Here Forster appears to be entering a plea of no contest, neither admitting guilt nor claiming innocence. What he does do, in a hypothetical sense, is express doubt about the positive outcomes of the new mobilities of the Sattelzeit era. It is in this line of thinking that Georg Forster diverges from the opinions of his father, Johann Reinhold Forster, argues Horst Dippel. As the following examples show, whereas in Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World (1778),33 Johann Reinhold Forster denigrates peoples “unconnected with the highly civilized nations”, Georg Forster, in A Voyage Round the World, suggests that without European contact the “brave, generous, and hospitable” Māori would potentially not have suffered such exploitation. Johann Reinhold Forster writes:

[T]he human species, when unconnected with the highly civilized nations, is always found more debased in its physical, mental, moral and social capacity. […] [T]heir hearts grow insensible to the dictates of virtue, honor and conscience and, they become incapable of any attachment, affection or endearment.34 ← 53 | 54 →

By contrast, Georg Forster writes:

A race of men, who amidst all their savage roughness, their fiery temper, and cruel customs are brave, generous, hospitable and incapable of deceiving, are justly to be pitied, that love, the source of their sweetest and happiest feelings, is converted into the origin of the most dreadful scourge of life. (VRW 137)

Perhaps then the world would be more peaceful if peoples were left to dwell in their own nations and preserve their own cultures and lifestyles? Despite what he generally regarded as their uncivilised nature, here Forster implies an answer in the affirmative with regard to the Māori people and their encounters with some European explorers.35 “I fear hitherto that our intercourse has been wholly disadvantageous to the nations of the South Seas”, he laments (VRW 121).


X, 240
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2016 (August)
German literature travel writing and film new mobilities paradigm
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. X, 240 pp.

Biographical notes

Anita Perkins (Author)

Anita Perkins holds a PhD in German from the University of Otago, New Zealand. She previously studied at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg and took part in the T2M International Association for the History of Traffic, Transport and Mobility's International Summer School in Berlin. She has worked as an English instructor in Germany, Japan and New Zealand. Since 2013, Perkins has been employed in New Zealand public sector roles involving foreign affairs and environmental management.


Title: Travel Texts and Moving Cultures