Traveling without end: The Journey Into Classic Literature
The Journey, a literary theme of enormous complexity. But fascinating and daring to suggest that we try an excursus, a journey of ours in the literature that we define classic.
Because the Journey as such never ends and constitutes the subtle plot of every story, every story, every hero or character.
Because if life is a journey, literature cannot be exempted from narrating the travel, physical, literal, allegorical, metaphorical, imaginative, symbolic, of us human beings. The topos of a journey through literature and through the centuries is a metaphor for life and has characteristics, styles and phases that we can trace back to ancient times.
Since ancient times, travel has been a constant experience in all countries, in every age. Literature, narration has eternalized them, whether they were real, whether they were a metaphor for living, a transfiguration of the search for man, for knowledge, for spiritual substance, for oneself.
Who among us does not remember how Greek and Latin culture is rich in works that deal with the great theme of travel? The Odyssey of Homer creates the archetype traveler par excellence, symbol of a pilgrimage that seems destiny, punishment and reward the man himself. …. The Greek myth can be interpreted as an immense repertoire of travel stories, in which the dimension of the imaginary naturally plays a relevant role.
The adventure, the courage, the curiosity that moves ancient and modern heroes. Aeneas, Odysseus. The travels of Plato and Philodemus.
With the birth of Christianity the sense of the journey takes on a vertical meaning, as a passage from the body to the spirit, from the imminent to the transcendent, from man to God, like a reading of poem.
Dante Alighieri in fact in the Divine Comedy will have to cross first Hell, then Purgatory and finally Paradise as an acquisition of knowledge that leads to God. While the journey of Dante’s Ulysses is defined by the Florentine poet as “the mad flight” because the Greek hero is moved by the spasmodic thirst to discover that it will lead him to death, since he is deprived of the grace of God.
We remember, because the medieval journey and its creative writing take place far away, that Boccaccio on the fourth day of the Decameron also offers us an example of a journey of the time. Historically, the Middle Ages makes us meet the travels of medieval merchants, pilgrims, and knights errant. From the 12th century onwards, there was a resumption of narrating the real experience of the journey. This is the case of Marco Polo who arrived in China along the silk road.
Literature in Modern Age
In the modern age, travel is minutely described as formative experiences. Such were the narratives of the itineraries of the Grand Tour with an Enlightenment imprint. A social and cultural phenomenon that primarily involves the offspring of the aristocracy and subsequently the middle classes, English, French and the Italian nobility.