“One of the jobs of historical novelists is to uncover those secret histories which, for one reason or another, professional historians have overlooked. Often this involves the apperception of a narrative where others might simply have seen discontinuities.” (Giles Foden, rev. of Richard Flanagan’s Wanting, Guardian, 26 Sept 2009)
Our knowledge of the history of voyages of exploration is largely based on our knowledge of expedition narratives: most of what we know about the journeys of these (mostly) men is based on written accounts. These accounts are partly authored by the explorers themselves (logbooks, diaries, journals, memoirs, scientific papers) and partly penned by others: fellow explorers, biographers, novelists.
In this course, we will focus on representations of the British exploration of the polar regions in the long nineteenth century. In particular, we will read various texts based on and inspired by John Franklin's 'Lost Expedition' (1845) and the 'Terra Nova Expedition' led by Robert Falcon Scott (1910-13). The diversity of non-fictional and fictional texts, literary and genre novels, historical and contemporary texts will allow us to examine the following questions: What plots/ themes/ motifs/ character constellations are typical of the expedition narrative (e.g. in reference to Empire, Englishness, masculinity, or science and culture)? What specific narrative strategies do we find (e.g. multiple narrators, intertextuality, genre mix)? How do these accounts handle the relationship between 'fact' and 'fiction'? What is the motivation for re-narrating these expeditions? What effects might they have on the (contemporary) image of these explorers?
Please, make sure to purchase and read the following two novels in advance. Your reading of them is prerequisite to the course.
- Robert Edric. The Broken Lands . London: Picador, 1993.
- Beryl Bainbridge. The Birthday Boys . London: Abacus, 2009.
In addition, you will each become an expert on one more such written account of your choice which will be offered for selection together with the syllabus in the first week of the semester.
PLEASE NOTE: Beryl Bainbridge's The Birthday Boys will be made available at the CvO bookshop. Robert Edric's The Broken Lands is currently out of print. Several second-hand copies can be acquired in my office (EUR 5). If you use an e-book version, please make sure to have a reading device with you in each session (cf. e.g. www.buecher.de, EUR 6,99) Please, contact me if you have difficulties obtaining the book.
Additional materials for preparation, as well as the detailed syllabus, will be made available on the wiki (http://wiki.angl-am.uni-oldenburg.de/index.php/2017_AM_Expedition_Narratives:_Literary_Representations_of_British_Polar_Exploration_in_the_Long_Nineteenth_Century
) and/or on Stud.IP. There will be a 'Handapparat' in our library.