Alexander von Humboldt’s Images of Landscape and the ‘Chaos of the Poets’
Autor: Rex Clark
published in: HiN VI, 10 (2005)
- Goethe and the ascent of Vesuvius
- Bürger’s Münchhausen
- Humboldt and the volcanoes of South America
Alexander von Humboldt’s descriptions of volcanic mountains in his travel journals (Reise auf dem Río Magdalena, durch die Anden und Mexico) show both his reliance on and impatience with literary conventions and travel narratives. Using Goethe’s Italienische Reise and Bürger’s Münchhausen as points of comparison for literary treatments of the volcano ascent, Humboldt’s process of writing is examined in Rex Clark´s article. Humboldt shows the failure of the existing discourse and begins to experiment with narratives which fragment and recombine personal and historical modes of writing with, in this case, images from new technical inventions which visualize landscape according to fundamental scientific principles. While the inclusion of scientific prose is relevant, Humboldt’s link to modernity is based on experimental narrative techniques which draw upon changing sets of discourse practices to describe complex realities.