Women Re-Defining the 'Orientreise': Memory, Nostalgia and the Problem of Multiculturalism in Austrian Travel Texts and Film
Wegener, Tessa V.
This dissertation explores how complexities of Austrian identity are navigated within spaces of Egypt through gendered representations of travel during the latter half of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century. Specifically, I examine Ingeborg Bachmann's novel fragment Das Buch Franza (1965/66; 1978), Ruth Beckermann's documentary film Ein flüchtiger Zug nach dem Orient (1999), and Barbara Frischmuth's novel Vergiss Ägypten (2008). My investigation of these filmic and literary texts is framed by earlier traditions of women's travel writing in the German-speaking world, as well as recent debates on the shifting nature of travel genres. In drawing upon a constellation of spatial, feminist and postcolonial theories, I argue that each work challenges the traditional opposition of space/time. In particular, I identify in all three works a shared emphasis on the historicity of spatial configurations. Furthermore, in probing how the position of Western female travelers is particularly complicated during encounters vis-à-vis the veiled Oriental woman, my study uncovers moments of complicity between feminist and imperial gestures that impede the ethical thrusts of the works in question. Finally, I assert that the three texts expand on the citationary nature of Orientalism by offering contemporary variations on representations of Egypt that simultaneously affirm and subvert Orientalist discourses. Within individual chapters, I turn to concepts of multidirectional memory (Rothberg), reflective nostalgia (Boym) and transnational migration (Adelson) in order to map out the discursive specificity of each text vis-à-vis space and history. Anchored in the overlapping disciplinary fields of Austrian cultural studies and gender studies, my dissertation demonstrates how these feminized narrative encounters with cultural otherness in Egypt present opportunities to critique memories of Austria's imperial legacy and fascist past, as well as current struggles with multiculturalism and integration.
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