The fantasy of turning back the clock by journeying eastward across what we today call the International Date Line appears in the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, and James Joyce, all of whom create characters who make, or contemplate making, such time-defying journeys. Uneasily yoking together the past and the present in the same physical space, the date line served as a flashpoint for nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debates over whether time was productively rooted in local and regional values and experiences or was universally abstract and placeless. Drawn along a part of the globe that the West regarded as distant, exotic, and racially and culturally inferior, the date line is conveniently ignored in the works of these authors, who transplant what might otherwise be universal anxieties of modernity onto an exotic locale outside the regular view or interest of empire and global commerce. This essay explores how authors have used the fantasy of the eastward journey across the date line to manage the temporal deviancy bound up with the date line’s paradoxical character by domesticating it, projecting it onto vilified spaces and populations, or reclaiming it as an intrinsic rather than extrinsic element of modernity.
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Adam Barrows; Eastward Journeys: Literary Crossings of the International Date Line. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2012; 73 (2): 157–174. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-1589158
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