NCRS: Travel and Exploration

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For more information on the Nineteenth Century Research Seminar Series, including forthcoming seminars, check out the Facebook page and website.


Nineteenth Century Research Seminar Series

Spring 2018 Seminar 1: Travel and Exploration

Speakers:

  • Dr Ilda Erkoçi, Edinburgh: The image of Albania in 19th century travel writing
  • Gesa Jessen, Oxford: Germans up on the Mountain and down by the Sea - Heinrich Heine’s Travel Pictures and the Emergence of Nature Tourism
  • Edwina Watson, Oxford: “Headlong perpendicular”: The Elevation of Poetry in Byron’s Manfred and Alpine Journal

Today was the first session of the Nineteenth Century Research Seminar Series. I was very pleased at how well-attended the session was. Though the topic, 'Travel and Exploration', is quite outside of my area of expertise, any broadening my knowledge of the 19th century serves to provide context for my research on Nietzsche and 19th century European philosophy and philology. However, Edwina's paper inspired an investigation that filled in a gap in my knowledge of Nietzsche's development: that is, Nietzsche's engagement with Byron.

Thoughts on the talks:

  • Dr Ilda Erkoçi
    • Ilda discussed how Albania was recorded in 19th century British travel writing. I was interested to hear about how Classics had a role in the British interest in the 'near east': archeology was a motivation for travel, for middle-class travellers educated in classical studies.
    • Travel writing was largely by educated, upper class writers - resulting in colonial or superior tone in their reportage. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, however, many of the prominent and influential travel writers were actually women. An example is Mary Edith Durham, who wrote about the Balkans; she first introduced anthropological elements in travel writing. 
  • Gessa Jessen
    • Gessa addressed the travel of Germans in Germany in the 19th century. There was a bourgeois infatuation between the German middle classes and the Harz mountains in the 19th century, whilst the seaside emerged as an exclusive travel destination for the upper classes. 
    • In his 1826 work Reisebilder (Travel Pictures), Heinrich Heine evokes Goethe's Faust in his approach to the peak of the Brocken. There is at once a nationalist and romantic nature to this interplay of German Classicism and nature tourism. 
  • Edwina Watson
    • Edwina talked about Byron's excursions into the Alps, as referenced in Manfred and the Alpine Journal, and how they relate to an 'elevation' of poetry and Byron's vertiginous aspirations in the literary sphere. Byron's Manfred is Goethe's Faust reimagined - and this metaphysical, gothic drama is full of allusions to Byron's own experiences in the Alps. 
    • I thought that there seemed to be similarities between Edwina's description of Byron's Manfred and Nietzsche's Zarathustra, from the mountainside setting, image of the eagle, and philosophical themes. It turns out this intuition was spot on: "Ich will das Ganze als eine Art Manfred und ganz persönlich schreiben," Nietzsche writes, in reference to the Zarathustra (NF-1881,12[70]). In Ecce Homo, 'Why I am so wise' §4, he reports having read Manfred at 13 years of age.

The next NCRS is on February 22nd, and the topic is 'Issues in Theology'.