“For Kings and Governments may err // But never Mr Baedeker”: forms and functions of the early twentieth-century travel guidebook to Mexico and beyond

Guest lecture by Julia Hieske, University of St. Andrews

The guidebook as we know it today was born in the 19th century when John Murray and Karl Baedeker popularised the genre, thereby revolutionising the way we travel and see the world. Guidebooks possess the potential to shape our views of a destination and its culture even before we pack our bags and set off on our journey. Yet, how have they managed to gain our trust? Taking a guide to Mexico as a case study, this talk will shed light on the workings of the genre and illustrate how a supposedly objective form has the power to influence an entire generation of travellers by promoting a political agenda amid advice on what to see next and where to stop for lunch.

Julia Hieske graduated from the joint MA/MLitt programme in German and Comparative Literature offered by the universities of Bonn and St Andrews in 2015, having studied and taught previously in Cologne, Dublin, Cambridge and Bonn. Her MA dissertation provided the first literary analysis of Spanish Minister Plenipotentiary Ángel Calderón de la Barca’s travel journal. Julia’s research interests cover the history and literature of travel (particularly to Mexico); late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century travel guidebooks; and the sociocultural implications of tourism in Porfirian Mexico and beyond. Her doctoral research at the University of St Andrews’ Spanish Department focuses on the creation and reception of travel guidebooks in the late Porfiriato and their influence on U.S. and British tourism to Mexico during the first half of the twentieth century. Julia is a recipient of a University of St Andrews School of Modern Languages PhD Scholarship and was previously awarded grants by the universities of Cologne and Bonn, as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Date:  28.11.2016
Time: 2 pm
Room: Karl-Bender-Saal (Raum 322)
Building: Juridicum (Universitätsstraße 14-16)

Research Training Group Literary Form.  History and Culture of Aesthetic Modeling
Research Training Group Literary Form. History and Culture of Aesthetic Modeling

Research Training Group Literary Form


Literary texts model realities in a way that is fundamentally constituted by aesthetic form. The Research Training Group takes as its subject the re-assessment and combination of two elements central to this commonplace: that of form and of the model. The former has always been at the centre of attention of literary studies as the subject of any historical or theoretical inquiry into concepts such as genre, metaphor or realism, but also of fundamental questions after fictionality and reference, mediality and materiality. Two qualifications apply, however, as recent developments have shown: on the one hand, students of history, the social sciences, and the natural sciences have also realised the vital importance of fiction and aesthetic form for their disciplines’ models of reality; on the other hand, literary studies are in danger of neglecting the specific potency of literary form, abandoning this concern for the sake of theoretical debates and the latest ‘cultural turns’. It is this twofold assessment that the Research Training Group takes as its point of departure, approaching traditional questions of literary form from the more general perspective of modelling. This approach enables literary studies, in the narrow sense of the word, to realize its innovative potential for and its interconnectivity with theoretical and historical research of a very wide scope. At the same time, it grounds the relations between extra-literary discourse and literary form in a new, ‘literary’ epistemology. Studies produced by the Research Training Group thus aim to contribute in innovative ways to the general knowledge system and its debates by re-addressing central questions of aesthetic form from a historical and systematic vantage point.

To this purpose, the Research Training Group Literary Form offers, in close collaboration with the established Graduate School "Practices of Literature" P-o-L Home, a curriculum embracing both a stringently structured, high-profile core programme and a wide range of electives. In this way, it ensures the efficient combination of individual doctoral tutoring with profound theoretical debate and the acquisition of additional skills and qualifications to increase employability. The programme’s key institutional strengths are the University of Muenster’s broad range of flexible and readily available supervisory capacities, its wealth of courses in the field of literary studies, its well-established internal scholarly co-operation and its high degree of integration in international networks, as well as on the strategic role graduates will play in the scholarly and administrative development of the Research Training Group itself.