Imaginary Homelands: The West and East in Modern Travel Writing

  • Luigi Marfè University of Turin
Keywords: Travel writing, Travel narrative, Geocriticism, Globalization, Orientalism, Post-colonial Studies


Since the time of Herodotus’ Historiai, travel writing as a literary genre has been marked by an unspoken premise: Westerners would be the observing travellers, while Orientals or Easterners, on the contrary, the observed natives. Focusing on the recent development of an opposite «counter-travel writing» by extra-European authors who live in the West and face its contradictions, this essay defines the historical and literary changes that have overturned this paradigm. Caught between two cultures, two languages, and two nations, authors such as Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Suketu Mehta, have profoundly reshaped the representation of the cultural encounter between the West and the East. If “nation” consists in its “narration”, as Homi Bhabha puts it, the same concept of homeland loses its geographical roots and opens itself to the endless contaminations of a global world. West and East thus become “imaginary homelands”: ideal spaces for the renegotiation of cultures and identities which need always to be rethought, retold, and re-imagined.


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Author Biography

Luigi Marfè, University of Turin
Luigi Marfè, a  post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Turin, works on travel writing, literary theory, and the history of creativity between literature and science. He is the author of Oltre la fine dei viaggi (Olschki, 2009); a book on contemporary travel writing (shortlisted in the “Premio Pen-Compiano 2010”); and Introduzione alle teorie narrative (ArchetipoLibri, 2011), an anthology of literary theory. He edited two books of collected essays: Classico/Moderno (Mesogea, 2011) and La cultura italiana fra autonomia e potere (L’Indice, 2007). He writes articles and reviews published in L’Indice, Pulp Libri and many other Italian and international literary magazines. In 2011, he taught comparative literature at the University of Parma. He has recently translated Nicolas Bouvier’s poems (Il doppio sguardo, Diabasis, forthcoming, 2011).


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How to Cite
Marfè, L. (2011). <i>Imaginary Homelands</i&gt;: The West and East in Modern Travel Writing. Between, 1(2).