Vanishing points, turning points, and points of no return: Geographies of somewhere, elsewhere, and nowhere

Poul Houe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article mines textual representations - by Max Frisch, Klaus Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Peter Weiss - of typically discounted twentieth century Western positions and traditions for their possible clues as to the kind of cultural displacements of which Western civilization is said to be uniquely unaware, disinterestedly aware or disinterested in. If current modulations of cultural strangeness and estrangement have indeed aggravated the erosion of representational prospects, it lies near at hand to visit this recent decline as an instance of Eurocentric ways as still encoded, perhaps encrypted, in their subaltern Other(s). Univocal subject positionality-or identity-is the foremost casualty in all the texts under scrutiny, and painful after-effects ensue from the implicit moments of textual crisis. Yet subsequent exilic mindsets and mental geographies of repositioning show little evidence of radical reconfiguration, let alone multiplication, of foundational priorities or sensibilities. In most instances, the sense of cultural landscape and cultural mobility merely contracts to inescapable points of historical gravity, from which the interpre-tational trajectory rarely bespeaks a turning point, but all the more so a point of no return or a virtual vanishing point. All the same, disfiguration of positionality and identity remains potentially translatable into transfiguration. The original and traditional-the home-enables a process of travel, hybridization, and othering, provided the cultural privilege of seeing is unlearned along the way. For that to happen, the process of unlearning must incorporate the process of learning as its sine qua non.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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