Phototextual Journeys: Nicolas Bouvier in Asia

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Abstract

Travel literature's inherent intergenericity extends into the realm of the interaesthetic in Nicolas Bouvier's textual and photographic representations of Asia. Although produced as distinct narratives, successive editorial decisions and the layering of these two media in the mind of the reader have transformed Bouvier's already palimpsestic texts into fluid, phototextual constructs. This article will offer ‘contrapuntal’ readings of a selection of Bouvier's texts in relation to the photographs charting his intercultural encounters in China and Japan. Countering the relegation of these photographs to the conventional status of aide-mémoire, the article will consider the shifting relationships of complementarity, tension, or disjuncture between image and text. These relationships are characterised by slippage, subversion and paradox. Text does not ‘load’ image, and images do not illustrate text. Indeed, Bouvier's photographs frequently contest, modify, or debunk the textual narratives. Ultimately, the article will argue that Bouvier's representations of Asia, both textual and visual, offer a challenge to cultural essentialism, to self-other binaries, and to monolithic discourses of otherness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-334
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Travel Writing
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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