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Travel Texts and Moving Cultures

German Literature and the Mobilities Turn


Anita Perkins

How does the experience of travel transform culture over time? This question is at the heart of this book, which brings together two main areas of scholarship: the cultural analysis of German literature and film and the emerging field of mobilities studies, which places movement and travel at the centre of human experience. The author grounds her analysis in two main concepts or ways of being: dwelling, or remaining in one place, which connotes stability, groundedness and permanence; and mobility, or travel to other destinations, which connotes movement, change and uncertainty.

Travel Texts and Moving Cultures provides a comparison of travel writing from two significant periods of global social change: historical (1770–1830) and contemporary (1985–2010). The study includes literature such as Georg Forster’s A Voyage Round the World (1777), which recounts the young German scientist’s journey to New Zealand with Captain Cook; Erich Loest’s Zwiebelmuster [Blue Onion] (1985), which exposes the travel desires of East Germans before the Wende via a semi-autobiographical narrator; and Bernhard Schlink’s Die Heimkehr [Homecoming] (2006), which recontextualises and deconstructs Homer’s Odyssey in the present moment through a son’s search for his father. Whereas a culture founded on mobilities and a desire for travel emerges in the historical period, the contemporary period reveals an increasingly mobile world in which travel is regarded as a human right. The approach taken in this book sheds light on the ethics of ever-increasing mobility and problematises the possibility of homecoming.

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Chapter 2: Sattelzeit Journeys


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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...

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