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The absence of authenticity and the authenticity of absence in Robert Dessaix's Twilight of Love


Ouston, A, The absence of authenticity and the authenticity of absence in Robert Dessaix's Twilight of Love, Studies in Travel Writing, 19, (3) pp. 259-273. ISSN 1364-5145 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/13645145.2015.1074810


This paper examines Robert Dessaix’s tourist experiences in his fifth book-length publication Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev (2004). Drawing on tourism theorists John Urry and John Frow, I suggest that Dessaix’s travel experience shifts between the self-conscious coolness of the post-tourist and an unselfconscious, humanist quest for authenticity. I analyse these shifts in terms of Ning Wang’s concept of "existential authenticity" which he differentiates from objectivist, constructivist and post-modernist approaches to authenticity. Dessaix essentially engages with, or moves playfully between, each of these modes. Ultimately, though, they dovetail at Courtavenel, France, when he visits one of Turgenev’s former dwellings, revealing an essential sense of absence at the centre of Dessaix’s identity, one that speaks to his absent biological parents, his lack of a concrete genealogy, the silence that surrounded his homosexuality in the first part of his life, and the threat of mortality that permeates Dessaix’s work and his efforts to engage with his "true self". In this way, Dessaix’s travel experience not only characterises his journey as a quest for existential authenticity, but it also confirms Judith Adler’s notion of travel as an artform that is capable of articulating subjectivity.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Dessaix; Turgenev; tourism; “touristic shame”; Twilight of Love; France;
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Literary studies
Research Field:Comparative and transnational literature
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:Literature
UTAS Author:Ouston, A (Mr Adam Ouston)
ID Code:103675
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2015-10-26
Last Modified:2017-10-30

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