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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 18, Issue 2, 2021

Massimo LeoneOrcid-ID
Pages 113-137

Mirrors, Selfies, and Alephs: A Semiotics of Immobility Travelogues

The article focuses on past epidemics and previous confinements, looking for the art of journeying through immobility. It rekindles the plague that ravaged the city of Turin in the 1630s, as well as Xavier de Maistre who, confined in the military citadel in 1790, wrote the Voyage autour de ma chambre, perhaps the first example of modern ‘anodeporics’, a neologism to designate immobility travelogues. The essay then explores other pandemics and subsequent attempts at imitating De Maistre. First, it concentrates on Wilkie Collins, the author of the 1852 short story “A Terribly Strange Bed”, who remained stranded with his father William, the painter, at the frontier of the Kingdom of Piedmont because of the cholera that broke out there in 1836. Second, it bears on Almeida Garrett, who resisted the siege of typhus-struck Oporto in 1832-3 and, ten years later, penned another classic of ‘anodeporics’, Viagens na minha terra, also inspired by De Maistre. After consideration, from the perspective of semiotics, of what is needed to “journeying throughout immobility”, the essay ends with a study of the most famous anodeporic tale in world literature, also containing ironic quotes by De Maistre: Jorge Luis Borges’ El Aleph, named after a fictional device for mystical travel confined in a basement of 1940s Buenos Aires. The conclusion of this semiotic exploration through pandemics, lockdowns, and immobility travelogues is simple: in case of forced immobility, the practice of exploring space through time can be replaced by the alternative practice of exploring time through space.