PhD course: Travel Writing - Politics, Poetics and Meaning

Politics, Poetics and Meaning

Key-note speaker: Prof. Tim Youngs, Nottingham Trent University

Much studied and theorized, travel continues to remain an inexhaustible source of fascination for scholars in a wide array of academic disciplines. Travel can and has been conceptualized as movement, as cultural encounter, as translation, as escape, as protest, as a source of artistic inspiration, as a quest for  making sense of the world and of one’s place in it, to name only a few. No matter what form their journey assumes—exploration, migration, flight, exile, military campaign, tourism or pilgrimage—travelers are also agents of knowledge production situated in hierarchically ordered power structures. At the same time, however, travel writing contributes to the shaping of the same power structures in which they are embedded. Travel and its literary representation can dislocate knowledge and serve as a mechanism to question the assumptions about the self and the other with which the traveller sets out; for author and reader it can become both a metaphor of and the way to anything from liberation, through escapism, or diverse forms of displacement to the active promotion and discursive embodiment of the colonizing project.

The one-day postgraduate seminar is conceived as a platform where the complex entanglement of travel writing, power, change and knowledge is theorized from the perspectives of politics and aesthetics. By giving equal weight to the political, historical and literary aspects we wish to do justice to the heterogeneity and multi-faceted nature of the genre. We also believe that this approach also provides a suitable framework within which key notions of travel writing such as exoticism, home and away, nostalgia, exile, otherness and selfhood, can be revisited, re-considered, questioned, subverted or rejected. Bringing in new data or approaching well-known texts from a new perspective should also enable participants to reread, reconsider and critique prevailing academic theories on travel writing. 

We invite PhD students from across disciplines, including—but not limited to—travel studies, literature, anthropology, sociology, area studies, religious studies, geography, political science, postcolonial studies, history, cartography and semiology to present their work, at any stage it might be, and benefit from individual feedback provided—among others—by the keynote speaker, Prof. Tim Youngs (Nottingham Trent University) and all others present, including senior faculty from our department.