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ENGL6080 - Travel Writing and Culture
Instructor(s)
Semester
2022-2023 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
2
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Time
Friday , 12:30 pm - 2:20 pm , LE4

            In the half-light of this moment,
            still dark, but not quite,
            we might meet,
            for the iron wall is
            not yet down.
            You give me food,
            I offer a dress:
            our skins, our souls—
            fragments of a shared earth
            in this time
            before dawn.
            -Tash Aw. In the Half-light, Part 1.

Inspired by Malaysian-British writer Tash Aw’s libretto for Canadian composer Zosha di Castri’s seven-part song series In the Half-light (its first part is quoted above), the course this year is organized as an intellectual journey through literature on this important theme: displacement, belonging and home. Throughout the course we will ask such questions as what does it mean by “travel”? What does the border or the act of border crossing entail? What is hospitality? As well as those universal questions that Aw’s libretto evokes: “what happens to our sense of being when we move from a place we know to a place we don’t then back again? How do we recalibrate feelings of attachment? how do we fit into a landscape? And, how do we appear to others and ourselves on the threshold between darkness and light?”

 

Topics

In this course, we read a broad selection of travel writings in English, and importantly some literary texts in English translation, by writers from different cultural backgrounds and periods. We will study how the experience of “travel” is recorded, imagined, and furthered in English through a variety of writing practices. We will encounter different travelling figures, such as pilgrims, missionaries, explorers, adventurers, tourists, voyagers, flâneurs, exiles, nomads, touring artists, expatriates, international students, migrants, and immigrants etc. The prescribed primary texts open up a fertile ground for discussion on home, displacement, and belonging.

We will also examine how different narrative structures correspond to modes of travelling; how the means of travel (train and airplane for instance) has changed the human perception of time and space; how travel writings reimagine borders and crossroads, such as those between self and otherness, between inside and outside, between tradition and progress, between East and West.

 

Objectives

Students will learn from this course how to read and respond to literary texts (and travel writing in specific) professionally as a literary scholar and critic.

In addition, there will be a couple of writing workshops in which students are encouraged to produce their own creative projects of travel writings. Ultimately, one core objective in this course is to have fun and depart for numerous journeys in form of small excursions and guided tours through assigned readings.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously says, “We cannot step into the same river twice.” We should appreciate that each of our reading experiences, albeit through the same prescribed text, will result in surprisingly different impressions and new episodes.

 

Organisation

We will meet every week for a two-hour seminar each Friday afternoon (12:30pm to 2:20pm). Each seminar will consist of lecture, discussion, debate, short presentation (casual sharing) from students, and/or writing workshop.

 

Assessment

There will be four assessment components for the course:

1. Attendance, participation and workshop work (10%),

2. A book review (20%),

3. A piece of creative travel writing (30%), and

4. A final critical paper (40%).

Assignments must be submitted via Turnitin (on course Moodle page). More detailed instructions and guidelines will follow.

 

Texts

A course pack of prescribed texts for the course will be made available on course Moodle page before the commencement of the second semester.


Instructor(s)
Semester
2022-2023 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
2
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Time
Friday , 12:30 pm - 2:20 pm , LE4