Get to Know a Reading Module: Travel in the GDR

Ever stopped to think about why you travel, where and how? Dr Alison E. Martin has.

Dr Alison MartinA specialist in travel writing, with a main focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travel narratives, Dr Martin offers a module for second-year students, GM2OPT3, which explores travel in quite a different period – the twentieth century – and examines travel in Europe and beyond during the Cold War.

Her seminar has several missions. One of these is to revise the commonly-held views that travel writing is not proper ‘literature’ at all – in the sense that it is not creatively crafted – and that it is nothing more than coffee-table reading, merely seeking to entertain,
with little ‘meat’ and message to it. She also aims to make students understand how travel is intimately related to all sorts of things we do in life – not just get to work or go on holiday. Where we go and how we travel has much to do with the community to which we belong or the social group to which we aspire, our dreams and aspirations or our fears and concerns.

RathäuserWhile in this course we adopt the time-honoured position of the ‘armchair traveller’, undertaking voyages with our authors to places as disparate as Siberia and Brighton, America and Cologne, we do so with a critical eye as we examine how the writers in this module use a wide range of different textual strategies – the use of first-person narration, direct speech, factual enumeration – to create a seemingly authentic, immediate and above all engaging picture of the foreign.