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Traveling in Place

A History of Armchair Travel

Armchair travel may seem like an oxymoron. Doesn’t travel require us to leave the house? And yet, anyone who has lost herself for hours in the descriptive pages of a novel or the absorbing images of a film knows the very real feeling of having explored and experienced a different place or time without ever leaving her seat. No passport, no currency, no security screening required—the luxury of armchair travel is accessible to us all. In Traveling in Place, Bernd Stiegler celebrates this convenient, magical means of transport in all its many forms.

Organized into twenty-one “legs”—or short chapters—Traveling in Place begins with a consideration of Xavier de Maistre’s 1794 Voyage autour de ma chambre, an account of the forty-two-day “journey around his room” Maistre undertook as a way to entertain himself while under house arrest. Stiegler is fascinated by the notion of exploring the familiar as though it were completely new and strange. He engages writers as diverse as Roussel, Beckett, Perec, Robbe-Grillet, Cortázar, Kierkegaard, and Borges, all of whom show how the everyday can be brilliantly transformed. Like the best guidebooks, Traveling in Place is more interested in the idea of travel as a state of mind than as a physical activity, and Stiegler reflects on the different ways that traveling at home have manifested themselves in the modern era, from literature and film to the virtual possibilities of the Internet, blogs, and contemporary art.

Reminiscent of the pictorial meditations of Sebald, but possessed of the intellectual playfulness of Calvino, Traveling in Place offers an entertaining and creative Baedeker to journeying at home.

264 pages | 83 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2013

Culture Studies

History: History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Travel and Tourism: Tourism and History, Travel Writing and Guides


“Bernd Stiegler introduces us to a history of travelogues, all written by trailblazers who measure the span of their adventures by the number of paces between the fireside armchair and the window casement. Stiegler shows the degree to which the room of the writer has become a microcosm, already stocked with enough exotic detail to place itself at the infinite disposal of our curiosity. The book suggests that no matter how far any wandering sightseer might travel, what really embarks on the trek is our imagination.”

Christian Bök, author of Euonia

“In this fascinating book, Bernd Stiegler turns modern travel inside out to offer us a history of armchair exploration. From chapter to chapter, he takes us through a rich series of modern travel narratives to convey how intricately the domestic interior and the global expanse have been interwoven. We learn a great deal about the microcosmic operations of travel as a narrative form, and about the odd delights and uncanny estrangements—for the imaginative—of staying home.”

Robin Kelsey, Harvard University

“Bernd Stiegler’s rich snapshots of traveling in place are a long overdue addition to the history of modern travel. Here we see Robinson Crusoe in relief: not the lost soul on a far-off tropical island but the intrepid explorers of the close at hand, recounting their arduous journeys through rooms, pockets, purses, desks, and drawers. Traveling in Place is a thought-provoking Wunderkammer of small distances.”

Andrew Piper, author of Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times

“In this esoteric but inspiring work, Stiegler forces us to consider the beauty and uniqueness of our common abodes. . . . The locations of Stiegler’s brief chapters or  ‘legs’ range from monastic cells to the artist’s studio, with authors including Samuel Beckett and Walter Benjamin. Although the reason for these travelogues ranges from sickness to boredom, they tell us more about their authors than any other genre. With unmatched uniqueness and stunning insightfulness, Stiegler gives readers of a philosophical bent noteworthy food for thought.”


“An informative and entertaining volume that introduces the reader to a new genre of travel literature. Recommended.”


Table of Contents

Brief Travel Guide
1 The Journey around the Room
2 Pilgrimages
3 The “Frauenzimmer”
4 Expeditions in the Near-at-Hand
5 Framed Views
6 The Life of Plants
7 The Life of Objects
8 The Journey through a Sea of Images
9 Dark Chambers
10 Interiors
11 The Flâneur

Excursion and Stopover: Around the World in 80 Days

12 Peregrinations
13 Travels with a Room
14 A Cinematic Baedeker
15 The Journey to La Défense
16 Journeys into the World as Text
17 The Journey into Oneself
18 Crossing-Crisscrossing
19 Cinematic Explorations
20 Near Distance
21 The Final Journey
Translator’s Note
Index of Names

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