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GGK/GCSC Post/Doc Perspectives: Reading Nineteenth-Century English Narratives about Mobility and Migration


22.06.2017 von 16:00 bis 18:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200)


GGK/GCSC Gebäude, Alter Steinbacher Weg 38, R. 001

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‘Travelling Cultures’: Reading Nineteenth-Century English Narratives about Mobility and Migration


In the last years, the idea of travelling cultures, particularly expounded by American anthropologist James Clifford, has captured the imagination of a significant number of historians, philosophers, anthropologists, cultural and literary studies scholars who are actively engaged with it. In fact, a number of theories have also emerged, which seem to be an interesting offshoot of travel such as travel and cultural translation, cross-cultural travel, travelling memory and modernity, travel and transitional imaginary, to name but a few. This lecture seeks to demonstrate how this new concept is helpful in reading nineteenth-century narratives of mobility and migration. By presenting my own theory of travelling culture in relation to the theory of transculturation, hybridity and transnationalism and using it as a reading methodology, I argue that various kinds of nineteenth-century genres such as novels, short stories, memoirs, poems and fictional travelogues reveal not only a variety of cross-cultural encounters, making us look at history and territory, nation and nation-state, culture and ethnicity as overlapping, but also how the experience and practice of travel by foot, by stagecoach, by horse, by sea or by boat shape and influence the private sphere of an individual and his or her mind set on ‘other’ cultures, identity and nation. It will be discussed how works of authors like Emily Eden, George Francklin Atkinson, James Wills, H.Rider Haggard, Mary Kinsley, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, G.A. Henty, Frederick Marryat, Anthony Trollop, Lord Byron and Willian Wordsworth deal with travel not only as a quest but as a life changing experience.

I take modern concepts of travel and deliberately choose to go back in century to address travel from a different perspective in order to develop innovative approaches to different forms of travel in literature in the long nineteenth-century – travels which are not necessarily connected to the idea of British colonial expansion alone, but also how an individual, a family or a community (often caught between cultures) is shaped by temporal, spatial, existential or spiritual journeys and pilgrimages. In short, I not only address the political aspects of travel as a means of expansion and conquest in the nineteenth century, but what role travel appears to play in the private sphere of a journey man or woman, and what emotional and psychological transformations it seems to unfold. At the same time, how travel leaves a lasting impact on culture and its adherents and how in some ways it tends to mould cultural and private histories. Thus, I aim to look at travelling cultures to make sense of the phenomenon of movement and mobility as fictionalised within the realms of nineteenth-century literature.


// Dr Nadia Butt