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Writing Liminal Landscapes: The Cosmopolitical Gaze

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Adventure and imagination are constant companions in creating landscapes and geographies in travel writing. Authors of travel texts cast the gaze from viewing platforms informed by Western discourse as they engage aesthetic dimensions of time and space to position the liminal in their narratives. In narratives of mobility the 'arrival' scene appears as a defining moment: one must cross a threshold and maintain a movement or passage involving temporal and spatial dimensions of liminality. In representing landscape, authors work with discourses of colonialism, post-colonialism, Orientalism and imperialism to formulate a discursive framework of what this paper positions as late twentieth century 'western cosmopolitical perspective'. Liminality is positioned as a tool to formulate metaphors, authorize discourse and characterize landscape through articulations of the gaze. This paper examines the writings of three women authors who wrote about their travels to the Islamic Republic of Iran in a particular historical moment - between the Islamic Revolution and US President Bush's 'Axis of Evil' declaration in 2002. Tracts of texts are drawn from the 'arrival' scenes to explore the various ways these writers frame their narratives according to the 'I' who focuses the 'eye' through a lens orientated by their cosmopolitical imagination or worldview. The gaze, articulated through discourse, provides a powerful view that may not reflect reality, but reflects what Western readerships may want to see as 'apparently' real.

Keywords: Iran; Orientalism; Travel writing; colonialism; cosmopolitical; discourse; liminality; post-colonialism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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