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.
Modern Age Literature Travel
A social and cultural phenomenon in literature journey that primarily involves the offspring of the aristocracy and subsequently the middle classes, English, French and the Italian nobility.
Then Jonathan Swift arrives and Gulliver’s journey becomes a desecrating parody of that same aristocratic and enlightened society that travels. Gulliver’s Travels is a tale born as a fascinating sarcastic allegory of the English Royal Society of James I, but which in the course of its realization turns into a bloody satire of English public life, the Court, the nobility, the government and its rulers. Of the customs and traditions of which the British were so proud.
Gulliver’s travels follow a recurring pattern: the protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, a modern Ulysses, in his infinite sailing and shipwreck lands in four different lands. In each one, Gulliver tries to blend, to integrate. The protagonist searches for those values that he misses at home, in a continuous exploration towards a utopian kingdom, which he will eventually discover does not exist.
And here we are in the century of romanticism! How not to get lost in the romantic nineteenth century, in the figure of the restless traveler, in the transfiguring epic of the traveler who completes an inner maturation.
The journey becomes, for the Romantics, the itinerary of the imagination towards an ideal world. The mythical place of the origin of knowledge, of civilization, a place far from the bourgeois reality so superficial and materialistic. The journey stems from the refusal of reality to seek those ideals of freedom, justice and truth in which the romantic intellectual believes.
In the romantic age, research moves towards an abandonment of the real experience of travel in literature. Traveling is not so much a discovery of unknown real worlds, but an inner journey in search of an unexpressed self and suffocated by suffocating and restricted social rules.
The journey gradually becomes a search for oneself, for a deeper ego. Almost an anticipation of psychoanalysis and the Freudian unconscious.
This is the case with Goethe ‘s Faust for example. A dramatic poem that tells the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles. A journey in search of the pleasures and beauties of the world that ends with the redemption of Faust and its identity.
Or The Drunken Boat of Rimbaud, which proposes the theme of the journey in a metaphorical sense, unhinging the reasonable certainty of reality.
Twentieth Century Journey
The Twentieth Century Journey becomes escape, a restless nomadism, where uncertainties prevail. The journey becomes metaphorical, symbolic, interior research, a journey of the soul, of conscience, of identity.
Pirandello makes travel an escape from one’s own identity. The escape, through illness and madness, becomes detachment towards a new identity.
Even when the illness and the journey, which will follow for the protagonist of the second story, will lead to the end of each journey, that is, death. But a death filled with knowledge and new awareness. Real and fantastic, diary and imagination, the Journey is always about moving from one’s safe harbor.
Tales of distant and unknown lands, through which a hero is formed, grows and transforms.
Even the fantasy genre, which appears in the mid-nineteenth century, faces the journey as an escape in a totally imaginary dimension. Moreover, drawing not only on the symbolic meaning of the great cycles of chivalry. He also draws heavily on classical, Mesopotamian, Scandinavian and Celtic mythology.
And a classic in this sense is the incomparable “Hobbit” which will be followed by the famous saga of ” The Lord of the Rings”, by Tolkien. The central theme is research and the journey connected to it.
Research and travel in the double meaning of literal and metaphorical. Bilbo makes a journey fraught with difficulties, in unknown, unknown places. Face immense dangers in search of treasure.
But the real journey has an intangible goal as its final achievement: inner growth and the discovery of one’s personal qualities and resources.