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To Be or Not to Be a Tourist - Tourist Ways of Narrating in German-Speaking Prose on India

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The dichotomous divide between the figure of the tourist and various other, non-tourist traveling subjects is deeply rooted in the history of travel and tourism. A seemingly irresolvable contradiction has been attached to modern tourism from its very beginning in the 19th century – travellers’ inevitable participation in tourist structures and their simultaneous rejection of all things touristy. In the 1990s, literary scholar Jonathan Culler spoke of the “centrality” that tourism occupies in our present day life and dwelled on the cultural implications of omnipresent tourist practices. Likewise, philosopher Zygmunt Bauman asserts that tourism has gradually moved from the “margins” of “social action” to the “centre of action” (Bauman 1997). He sets up a typology of postmodern lifestyles in which the figure of the tourist takes on a collective metaphorical function for the contemporary life in Western societies and their symptomatic fear of attachment and determination. Against this backdrop tourism is increasingly understood as the cultural travel practice of the present (Biernat 2004). Taking selected German-speaking works about India as examples, this talk seeks to analyse in what respect the narrators of literary travelogues are characterised by tourist experiences, perceptions and practices and how these manifest themselves as particular narrative strategies in the literary medium. Can we identify specifically ‘tourist’ forms of writing? By no means is tourism explored for the first time in literary texts. However, what has so far only been considered in a very rudimentary fashion are narrative strategies of tourist writing and their significance for travel literature as a whole.

This talk is part of the Caius MCR/SCR research talks series.

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