"Ecrivain-voyageur" versus "voyageur-écrivain" : la déconstruction du voyage et de ses modes d'écriture au 20e siècle : vers une reécriture du récit de voyage et de l'ailleurs
- This project is the narrative of a unique voyage accomplished over the past few years in search of a certain type of literature: the literature of the outer world and the Other, and most importantly, in search of a very specific group of travel writers (also referred as "writers in travel literature") and their passionate stories. Traveling and writing, in which directions and in search of what? What are the motivations behind the various decisions to travel and ultimately to write? Traveling in order to write, writing in order to travel, or simply traveling for the unexpected of the road, the unknown and the mere delights of the trip in itself ? Is it currently possible to differentiate these two steps, apparently necessary to the creation of a travel narrative, or do they remain closely connected to one another ? To what extent can we individually re-discover and re-define the qualities that are specific to the writer and the traveler, by no longer identifying them as similar characteristics to both, but by emphasizing on the contrary, that they belong to two distinct categories in the domain of travel literature ? The evolution of French travel literature over the centuries remains a complex and fascinating topic that has aroused a large number of questions, and it is difficult to answer each one of them with precision. Nevertheless, the emergence of a new approach towards the concept of traveling and the various ways to interact with the outside world has gradually allowed a better understanding of the literary genre as well as a new way to analyze the choices and behaviors of several travelers and writers at the beginning of the 21st century. Living in uncertain times of globalization and rapidly converging cultures, modern travelers publishing their experiences, find themselves more than ever reflecting on the diversity of the world. From the 20th century onward, the representation of the other has become one of the main purposes of traveling and writing. The evolution of the genre in the last couple of centuries demonstrates a stronger desire among certain authors in search of cultural diversity, to finally rediscover, accept and reassess the true value of the outside world by experiencing it in the present, rather than contrasting their experience with previous critical works from other authors. The abundance of travelers around the world today, as well as the increase in the numbers of travel narratives published each year make one wonder what drives these individuals, and for whom do they write ? Why do so many travelers and tourists, in search of new and exotic experiences capable of disrupting the monotony of their existences, decide to leave? What are the reasons behind their decisions ? Did the experience of traveling throughout the 20th century lose its meaning? What is left to contemplate despite the tour of what has already been done? Are we still capable of observing the world with a new, objective and innocent eye, or are we merely bound to discover what others have seen, invented, imitated and written before us ? Lost between fiction and reality, the travel writer manages to reassess his or her own voice, and reinvent himself or herself in view of mass tourism, and it is possible that the emergence of a new desire of authenticity in terms of the way people travel, interact with the Other and chose to share their experiences through writings, may have gradually opened the way to a new type of writing and traveling at the beginning of the 20th century. By looking at the very first novels of exploration and adventure, the various travel diaries often held responsible of idealizing "exotic" territories, and by finally observing the emergence of numerous travel "blogs" invading the virtual world at the beginning of the 21st century, one cannot help but wonder what happened to real travel literature, and whether is it still possible to experience with authenticity the real nature of the world. My research project focuses on two categories of travel writers, who far from being representatives of the large majority of authors, naturally distinguish themselves from one another by their intentions, their ways of traveling, and ultimately, their very unique and individual ways of writing about the journey. It is important in this precise case, not only to emphasize the function and the particularity of what I define as "a writer in travel literature" or travel writer (un écrivain--voyageur in French) in the broad meaning of the word, but also the existence of new models in travel literature. Among the different types of writers who have published their travel narratives over the years, I find it particularly interesting to study the dichotomy between two categories of authors: the "traveling--writer" and the "writing--traveler". An analysis of these types of writing will ultimately lead to a new theory on travel literature, and provide a more modern understanding of the literary genre. Despite the fact that most critical essays on travel literature are interested in the question of the interaction with the Other throughout the journey, or its representation and place in a more modern and global society, it is interesting to adopt a different approach to the subject by re-establishing the definition of a travel writer, or a "writer in travel literature". The meaning of a "writer in travel literature", as well as a "travel narrative" has changed since the beginning of the 20th century and our current perception of this minority of writers is now restrictive, since it does not fully allow us to distinguish the specificities and the individuality of the subject, whether it is during the journey in itself, or the process of writing. A "writer in travel literature" generally bases most, or at least a major part, of his or her work on personal experience while traveling. This writer usually uses autobiography, narrative, poetry or even the essay genres to present discoveries and encounters to the reader, and therefore add a more universal and literary dimension to his or her individual experience. My goal at the beginning of this research was to determine what are, among the vast category of "writers in travel literature", the most significant differences between the experience of a traveler and that of a writer, and which literary elements allow us to point out those differences. Some writers may emphasize their difference by displaying a more objective way of perceiving and describing the world as well as a new attitude towards the concept of Otherness, while others, more interested in the action of writing, may manifest a desire to show what is really left of our world, through a more transparent way of writing, in closer accuracy to reality itself. Therefore, I demonstrate in this work that there is a clear difference between two types of travel writers through an innovative comparison of the works of two authors, Alexandra David-Néel and Nicolas Bouvier, who respectively represent the new categories of "writing--traveler" and "traveling--writer". First, I have deliberately chosen to contrast a female traveler and a male writer in order to compare them on a personal level and better understand what the act of traveling and writing means for them. I compare their initial motivations in regards to their decision to leave, as well as on following the evolution of their "self" and the intimate relationship they developed with their sense of self (or with themselves) throughout their journeys. I then analyze the relationships these two authors established with the outer world and the Other, and to what extent their gender difference played a critical role in their ways of interacting and traveling, in different geographical spaces and times. Finally, I am interested in their own perception of the act of writing, in order to understand, on an individual point of view, what function writing played in their lives, how they managed to express themselves to their readers, and what elements in their texts help us draw a parallel between them. I specifically look at the role writing played in their experiences and -- most importantly -- how it motivated the purpose of traveling for them. As a consequence, a brief summary of the evolution of travel literature over the years, the analysis of certain key concepts such as the notion of "travel writing", the difference between genders in a literary context, and the relationship to both the "self" and the Other, remain important themes in contemporary travel literature. Nevertheless, my comparison between these authors offers an innovative approach to the genre, more adequate to the conditions and the reality of contemporary travel, and capable of increasing our general understanding of what makes people initially embark. My dissertation is divided into four main chapters in which I compare the work of these authors: Nicolas Bouvier and Alexandra David-Néel. In my first chapter, I give an overview of the various travel narratives published over the last century, in order to better understand the evolution of the genre and see how these changes have impacted both the art of writing and the art of travel. I redefine a certain number of concepts often used in the domain of travel literature, such as "author", "writer", as well as "literature" and "travel narrative", which are all assigned specific meanings, but need to be redefined for the purpose of this project. This first chapter presents the specificity of my new thesis on travel literature. I show that there are unquestionably some recurring themes in any kind of travel narrative, even though the singularity of my analysis comes from the fact that neither Bouvier, nor David-Néel can clearly be associated to the general category of "writers in travel literature" (or travel writers), since they distance themselves from
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Lasnier, Marie Helene
|Stanford University, Department of French & Italian.
|Mudimbe-boyi, M. Elisabeth
|Mudimbe-boyi, M. Elisabeth
|Statement of responsibility
|Marie Helene Lasnier.
|Submitted to the Department of French and Italian Literature.
|Ph. D. Stanford University 2010
- © 2010 by Marie Helene Lasnier
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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