This is a call for papers for a conference on Austrian Travel Writing (Maynooth University, Ireland, 17-19 June 2021, public Health status permitting). Conference languages are English and German. A selection of the English papers will be published as volume 31 (2023) of the MHRA yearbook Austrian Studies. The publication of a selection of the German papers is also envisaged. Both publications will be fully peer-reviewed.

On 24 February 1879, Empress Elizabeth of Austria (‘Sisi’), participating in a stag hunt out of Summerhill House, residence of the Viscounts of Langfort in Kilcock, County Meath, breached the walls of neighbouring St. Patrick’s College Maynooth. She was greeted by Acting President, Dr William Walsh, a future Archbishop of Dublin. On returning to Ireland one year later, she presented the College with a statue of St George, somewhat unfortunately the patron saint of England. Sisi’s visit – after all the visit of a Catholic monarch from a ‘dual’ monarchy – was otherwise welcomed by Irish nationalists as a potent statement of solidarity. The empress, perhaps contritely, later endowed the College with a set of vestments of gold cloth, decorated with gold and green shamrocks and the coats of arms of Austria, Hungary and Bavaria. The less welcome statue was promptly stolen.

Sisi’s visit to Maynooth highlights some of the aspects that make travel such a rewarding subject of academic investigation: the purpose, perception, political implications, symbolism and discourse that attend the actual activity of travelling form a potent, intriguing, often contradictory blend, sometimes in their own time, sometimes later.

The aim of the conference is to explore Austrian travel writing in the broadest sense, incorporating all German writing originating from Austria and the Habsburg lands from the Middle Ages to the present day. Travel writing is understood as any text, in fiction or non-fiction, that deals explicitly and substantively with journeys (understood as physical movement through space, not primarily in a figurative or metaphorical sense) and uses an itinerary as a prominent structuring device. As regards purpose, length or destination of the journey, however, engagement with all varieties of travel writing are welcome – internal and external travel, tourism and exploration, ‘discovery’ of the more remote parts of the Habsburg Empire and the core regions of the truncated Austrian republics, as well as regions further afield.

We welcome a plurality of methodological and theoretical approaches. We welcome engagement with a variety of genres, from pilgrims’ or journeymen’s narratives, accounts of diplomatic or military travel, reports of ‘scientific’ travel (Novara expedition, Payer/Weyprecht Arctic expedition of 1872-74) and accounts of Afrikareisende such as Oscar Baumann, to genres such as travel journalism / reportage and travel poetry. Journeys undertaken in search of refuge and other kinds of forced migration might also have found expression in forms of travel writing. We welcome engagement with noteworthy individuals such as Ida Pfeiffer, travel writing on specific destinations with specific agendas (for example, Felix Salten’s evaluation of Jewish settlement in Palestine twenty years after Herzl’s Altneuland), fresh studies of classics and modern classics by, for instance, Roth, Bachmann, Handke, Ransmayr, and of more recent postcolonial treatments of historical journeys in the works of authors such as Thomas Stangl and Franzobel. We wonder if contemporary attention to the anthropocene across the humanities is also making its mark on the writing of travel literature and on our ways of reading it…? The Coronavirus experience, too, might have opened up new perspectives on travel writing and travel discourse.

Please send an abstract of no more than 200 words and a short bio-blurb (both in the same document) in your chosen language to and by 1 December 2020. Attempts will be made to secure some support for early career scholars / non-tenured colleagues, but no promises can be made with regard to funding. However, there will be no conference fee.

If public health considerations prevent us from going ahead on the dates indicated above, we will reschedule rather than cancel. In the meantime, we would encourage interested colleagues to submit proposals inevitable uncertainties notwithstanding.

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