Shipwreck as an end as well as a new beginning in the European modern era, researched from the perspectives of history, literary and visual studies.
Someone who is shipwrecked loses a lot, if not everything: ship, cargo, and often life. Hopes are shattered, plans and life scripts are becoming invalid. However, shipwreck can also imply the possibility of gain – for the survivors or outside observers. This perspective, to which little attention has been paid until now, is the main focus of this book.
The authors examine the European modern era, where shipwrecking gained greatest meaning in seafaring, literature and art, as well as in a metaphorical sense. Where utopian societal ideas start with wreckage, where distress at sea is understood as the end of one’s old life as well the starting point of a new one and the aestheticisation of shipwrecking evokes a feeling of sublimeness, where disaster is a moment of critical social diagnosis that results in new maritime regulations and nautical safety technology, accidents at sea do not only signify the end of successful voyaging, but in some ways its beginning.