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Kerstin Wiedemann and Elisa Müller-Adams

Mapping Europe Ida Hahn-Hahn’s travel writing (East and West)


The 2012 COST-WWIH workshop focuses on the contribution of women writers to establishing contacts between Western and Eastern Europe. In our paper, we would like to take up the spatial notion of culture contacts and cultural transfer implied in the call for papers, by analyzing two travelogues by Ida Hahn-Hahn, i.e. her Souvenirs from France (1842) and The Letters from the Orient (1844).

Within the COST-WWIH project, we have in our case study on German women writers in the European literary market so far focused on the reception of Hahn-Hahn’s writings in England and France, in order to ask questions about gender as a factor in cross-cultural reception and processes of (non)canonization.

In preparation for Milestone 3 (“Visualizing”), we want to look at the literary texts themselves: Hahn-Hahn traveled across Europe and produced travelogues on France, Spain, Britain, Scandinavia and the "Orient" thereby creating a literary map of Europe (and beyond) that reflected and took part in the contemporary discourse about Europe with the notions of "East" and "West", "North" and "South" being both geographical and (even more so) cultural categories.

Since the so-called "spatial turn" (or especially for the German context, the "topographical turn") in cultural studies, the question how literary texts present and produce spaces has attracted a lot of scholarly attention. In these debates, space is always understood as constructed by cultural and social practices with literature playing an important part in these processes. In travel literature as a sort of text that center on experiences of space and movement, of borders and border crossings, these processes are evident.

Starting from these methodological reflections of literature as a presentation practice of space, our analysis of the two travelogues about France (West) and the "Orient" (East) will ask what images of East and West are produced, how they are related to the contemporary discourse and whether a specific female perspective can be found in the texts.

Furthermore reading Hahn-Hahn’s travel writing as a mapping of Europe (based on spatial categories such as centre, periphery, margin and border) may allow us to reconstruct the contemporary female vision of those cultural spheres the COST-WWIH-project is currently focusing on.

AsK, September 2012

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