The Topos of the Disappointing Journey: The End of Exoticism?

  • Lucia Claudia Fiorella University of Florence
Keywords: Exoticism, Travel Literature, Jerusalem, (Pierre) Loti, (Mark) Twain


As the term ‘exoticism’ describes an aesthetic appreciation of the foreign,  irrespective of any substantial knowledge of it as such, the actual experience of the much longed-for Elsewhere may result in a bitter disappointment, even in a catastrophe for the imagination. This occurs because the ‘exotic’ is a (Western) self-centered, self-gratifying notion elaborated in the nineteenth century which codifies a strategic representation of the Other employed as a repository for those features from which the West has estranged itself, yet longs for. 

Since the representation of the Other entails an implicit representation of the Self, disappointing journeys and subsequent crises regarding the ‘exotic tension’ (in the terms of Segalen) have often been the starting point for a fundamental questioning of Western representations of Otherness as well as of their construction of the sense of identity. A case in point is the journey to the Holy Land, whose conventions have informed an impressive number of travelogues recording the disillusionment of travellers at the gap between the reality of the place and its people and their idealized, literary versions.  Responses range from despairing ennui to constructive sarcasm. To account for these differences, Lucia Fiorella draws a comparison between Pierre Loti’s Jérusalem (1896) and Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad (1869).


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Author Biography

Lucia Claudia Fiorella, University of Florence

Lucia Claudia Fiorella has earned a PhD in Anglo-American literature from the University of Florence, Italy where she has taught English literature as a fixed-term lecturer. She has published the first full-length study in Italian on JM Coetzee (Figure del Male nella narrativa di J.M. Coetzee, ETS, 2006) and has contributed eight substantial entries to the Dizionario dei Temi Letterari (UTET, 2007). She has dealt with certain epistemological issues in life writing, the critique of religious enthusiasm in the Age of Enlightenment, and Wilkie Collins’s long and short fiction. Fiorella is presently working on fictional and documentary accounts of polar expeditions at the turn of the twentieth century.



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How to Cite
Fiorella, L. (2011). The Topos of the Disappointing Journey: The End of Exoticism?. Between, 1(2).