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Durham e-Theses
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time and the other in late nineteenth-century German travel writing

Dawe, Tracey (2004) time and the other in late nineteenth-century German travel writing. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis focuses on the experience of time by three nineteenth-centui-y German travellers in Africa, Heinrich Earth, Gerhard Rohlfs and Gustav Nachtigal; on their use of time to structure their travel narratives; and their use of temporal concepts to distinguish themselves from the 'primitive' Africans. The thesis argues that the role of the temporal mind-set during encounters between Germans and Africans is dialectic and subversive. Far from blindly imposing their conceptions on what they encountered, the Germans found their familiar concepts in varying degrees unsettled and even undermined by their encounter with alterity. The opening chapter outlines the temporal mind-set with which the explorers presupposed: an experience of time as both linear and homogeneous chiefly constituted by scientific progress, industrialisation and the expansion of the railway; and a conception of linear-progressive historical time influenced by Hegelian historicism. The second chapter looks at time in its narrating function, investigating macro and micro narrative patterns in the travel narratives. An analysis of the relationship between Erzdhlzeit and erzdhlte Zeit demonstrates the notation of time and date as an expression of control over the experience of alterity. The discussion then moves from time to space in the third chapter, demonstrating the slow erosion of the explorers' mind-sets by their experience of African climate and terrain. The fourth chapter discusses the role of the occidental temporal mind-set during cultural encounters and how, if at all, it is employed as a means of asserting cultural superiority. The thesis concludes that the explorers Earth and Rohlfs employ the time-set as a means of understanding new experiences. Nachtigal in contrast, willingly collapses western notions of time and history to create a totality of experience. He alone welcomes the dissolution of the occidental subject as a discovery of primal authenticity. However, all three explorers find that they cannot but inscribe the experience of non-Western time-sets in their narratives. Thus the imposition of historicist, linear time is unsuccessful. It is argued that this is the result of a particularly German interest in alternative regions of human experience other than the aggressively imperialist reduction of otherness. For the explorers remained open, in varying degrees, to dialectical exchange.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 15:19

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