In: KulturPoetik 2016, Heft 1


Oliver Lubrich/Katja Liebal


King Kong in the Mist. Travel, Knowledge, and Emotion




This article deals with the interactions of literary imagination, cultural identity formation processes and cultural policy strategies. Literature here is understood not just as a reflection of collective memory, and it is not reduced to a representation of the collective mentality of a society at a particular moment in time. Instead, using the Swiss cultural imagination during the era of ›intellectual national defence‹ against Nazi Germany as an example, the influence of literary imaginings on the formation and transformation of models of collective identity models is examined. The analysis will focus on the specific potential of literary imagination, which, under ceIn the twentieth century, two key texts about the »greatest of the great apes«, the gorilla, shaped our perception of other primates. At the first glance, they could not be more different. While one represents a fictive struggle with an aggressive monster (King Kong, 1932), the other is the memoir of a scientist who researches and protects gentle creatures (Gorillas in the Mist, 1983). When read as travel narratives, however, both reveal surprising similarities. Starting with a journey to a remote, unknown place, they describe the humans’ conflicting emotions during their encounter with animals. Both books deal with the recognition that we share cognitive and affective traits with the bestial ›other‹. The article compares the presentation of gorillas in these different and yet similar texts from the interdisciplinary perspective of literature and primatology. It explores the role of emotions in inter-species interaction and in the process of knowledge production in the field.rtain conditions, can achieve a high level of effectiveness in the socio-political area.