The road to Alexandria. The sensation of landscapes in European travel writing, 1919-1939

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2021 - 2025 (lopend)
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Until now, the study of travel writing has mostly focused on the visual
‘gazes’ on foreign people and places. Challenging the longstanding
neglect of non-visual sensations, this project will analyze the
interplay of sounds, tastes, smells, and textures in non-fictional
published travel accounts. This approach will be applied to the
sensation of arduous landscape types in Southeastern Europe and
Western Asia recorded by countercultural travel writers in French,
English, German, and Dutch during the interwar years. The project
aims to determine which material, intellectual, social, and textual
factors shape the narrated experience of landscapes. These factors
will be explored through four different paths of research that draw on
the material history of travel practices, interdisciplinary sensory
studies, an actor-centered approach, and the upcoming narratology
of the senses. Our ambition is to delineate a tradition of travel writing
which – influenced by movements such as primitivism and vitalism –
proceeds from a ‘wandering’ mode of travel, foregrounds all the
senses, and accordingly features alternative ways of knowing,
emotionally responding to, and textualizing foreign environments.
This project will therefore not only revise ocularcentric histories of
travel writing, but also pioneer a sensory method to study this genre
and contribute to the understanding of landscape experience in the
interwar period.



Postdoctorale medewerker(s)