Around the World: German Travel Writing
Descriptions of travel, be they real or fictional, have entertained and enlightened listeners and, later, readers for millennia. Travel is thus rightly regarded as one of the most exciting literary topics because it exposes us not only to different cultures but also probes our relationship to others. In this course, we will consider the history of German travel writing starting in the 18th century and follow its course from a dangerous, difficult pursuit undertaken by a few, to education and leisure for the elite in the 19th century, and to the 20th century phenomenon of mass tourism, which has become the world’s largest economy.
Using a variety of texts and media (letters, essays, reportage, novels, editorials, pictures, films), we will follow the itineraries of prominent authors such as Goethe, Heine, Humboldt, Towada, Özdamar, and Kehlmann and study why and how they travel to locations across the globe. Through their texts we will visit countries and continents such as Italy, Germany, South America, and Turkey and critically examine the representations of these locations. We will conclude with a segment on the current mass migrations to Europe, specifically to Germany, and address their impact on German cultural and national identity. Students are expected to give a short presentation and write three papers.