In France, a vast travel literature emerges throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, which is part of the European “politics of world exploration” (Despoix) that comes to map out multiple inter- and intracultural “contact zones” (Pratt). It also contributes considerably to the production of a particular world knowledge which comprises both traditional figures of comparing the ‘Old’ and the ‘New World’ (such as the 'Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes') as well as new scientific taxonomies and classifications belonging to the fields of geography, biology or botany.
The Seminar will ask how French explorers, travelers and members of the emerging “Republic of Letters” of the 17th and 18th centuries perceived, measured and described the ‘New World’ and the many novel experiences linked with its increasing exploration. On the one hand, the focus of the course will be on comparisons and references that authors drew from contemporary European discursive topoi (such as the ‘noble savage’, the ‘barbarian’ etc.); on the other hand, it will focus on wider geographical comparisons that authors made in order to come to terms with their ‘exotic’ or ‘primitive’ surroundings. Readings will include ‘canonical’ travel narratives by Montaigne, Bougainville, Diderot, Volney, Chateaubriand as well as the Abbé Raynal and the slightly less well-known de Champlain, Charlevoix, Biet and others.
Since the course will be held in a co-teaching of a literary scholar and a historian, you will explore the seminar’s texts from both perspectives, that of literary studies as well as that of history. The course “The Beginning of the Age of Revolution. America, France, and Haiti, 1775-1804” (220115) can be studied as a historical contextualization (historische Kontextualisierung) which supplements the seminar (both classes together form a module).
Teilnahmevoraussetzungen, notwendige Vorkenntnisse
Readiness to read and discuss English texts and to combine perspectives derived from literary criticism with historical source critique. Being able to speak or read French is helpful but not an obligatory requirement, as the course will be held entirely in English.
Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge. "Spanish America in Eighteenth-Century European Travel Compilations. A New 'Art of Reading' and the Transition to Modernity." Journal of Early Modern History 2, no. 4 (1998): 329-49.
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial eyes. Travel writing and transculturation. 2nd ed ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.
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