At the Threshold to the New World

Equator Crossings, Sunsets, and Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques

in Transfers

This article deals with representations of equator crossings in travel literature. Focusing on the accounts of European travelers to Brazil, it considers descriptions of crossing-the-line ceremonies that were performed on board ships since the sixteenth century and shows that, since the late eighteenth century, writers have increasingly staged crossings of the equator as an individual and private experience. Furthermore, it addresses the relation of travel and knowledge that descriptions of equator crossings establish by referring to distinctive epistemological approaches to the New World and by producing a “liminal knowledge” characteristic of travel narratives. The article draws on travel literature from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, paying special attention to the postromantic description of an equator crossing in Claude Lévi-Strauss’s famous memoir Tristes Tropiques.