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Travel Texts and Moving Cultures

German Literature and the Mobilities Turn

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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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