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This is a fast-moving course which begins with a survey of the history of western travel writing from medieval times to the present. En route, we will examine travel writing as a literary genre and scrutinize travel texts for social, political and cross-cultural implications which have been, and continue to be, instrumental in shaping worldviews.

As well as studying a wide range of primary texts in English from The Travels of Marco Polo to Pico Iyer’s The Global Soul, students will also engage with critical and theoretical texts to explore such issues as, translation, gender, imperialism, tourism, the environment and postmodernism.

 

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Objectives


The main objective of the course is to introduce students to travel writing as a distinct literary genre, and to recognize the various styles, strategies and problems of representation presented by 'writing travel'. A wide range of texts will be studied giving students the opportunity to explore writing from different historical periods and to consider the political implications of presenting world views in particular socio-historical-geographical contexts.

Having been introduced to a range of different styles of writing about travel and places, students will learn how to approach travel writing critically, and will also produce a piece of creative travel writing themselves.

 

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Organisation


We will meet once a week, for a 2-hour session on Thursdays (2nd semester). The course is interactive, although it will contain some lecturing by the course teacher, with introductions to writers, history, geography, style, thematic and critical approaches. Students are expected to ask questions and regularly work – in groups or individually – on reading and thinking exercises.

Course Content
The below gives you a rough outline of how our course progresses and which authors we will read.

  1. Travel Writing: the Genre, the Common Tropes
  2. Writing the East: Marco Polo, John Mandeville
  3. New Worlds, First Encounters: Christopher Columbus, James Cook
  4. The Grand Tour: James Boswell, Tobias Smollett, Lawrence Sterne
  5. Literary Travels: Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson
  6. Travel Writing: Critical Approaches
  7. Modern Romantics and Tourists: D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence Durrell
  8. Gendered Travels: Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Kingsley, Isabella Bird
  9. Postcolonial and Global Travelling: Caryl Phillips, Amitav Ghosh, Pico Iyer
  10. Eco-Travels: Robyn Davidson, Peter Matthiessen
  11. Travel Writing: Preliminary Conclusions

 

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Assessment


Assessment is by 100% coursework. There are several parts to the assessment:

1. Participation (15%)

2. A piece of travel writing (25%): Factual or creative writing (how factual, how creative is up to you – you will receive guidelines), of 1,200-1,500 words.

3. A book review (15%): a critical summary of a travel text of the student’s choice, of 500-700 words.

4. Term Paper (40%): A critical essay demonstrating good knowledge of works by two or more travel writers and working with theoretical or historical background texts, of 1,800-2,000 words.

 

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Texts


The Course Pack with primary readings (in extracts) will be available on Moodle prior to the start of the course. Students are expected to come to class prepared and have read the excerpts assigned to any given week. Additional texts (creative or critical) may be handed out in class, as necessary.

Suggested General Reading:
Bhabha, Homi K. 'Culture's In-Between' from Questions of Cultural Identity, eds. Hall and Du Gay (1996)
Blanton, Casey, Travel Writing: The Self and the World (2002).
Campbell, Mary B. The witness and the other world (1988)
Clifford, James, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Twentieth Century (1997).
Cronin, Michael, 'The Rambling House of Language', in Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation (2000)
Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. (1991)
Hall, Stuart, 'The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power' in Foundations of Modernity, eds. Hall and Gieben (1992)
Holland, Patrick and Graham Huggan, Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing (1998).
Howard, Donald. Writers and Pilgrims (1980)
Hulme, Peter and Youngs, Tim, The Cambridge Guide to Travel Writing (2002)
Korte, Barbara, English Travel Writing: From Pilgrimages to Postcolonial Explorations. Translated by Catherine Matthias (2000).
Kuehn, Julia and Paul Smethurst (eds.), Travel Writing, Form and Empire (2008)
Kuehn, Julia and Paul Smethurst (eds.), New Appraoches to Travel Writing Studies (2014)
Mills, Sara, Gender and Colonial Space (2005).
Pratt, Mary Louise. 'Criticism in the Contact Zone' in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992)
Roberson, Susan L (ed.). Defining Travel: Diverse Versions (2001)
Said, Edward. 'Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories' in Culture and Imperialism (1993)
Thompson, Carl. Travel Writing (2011)
Wood, Frances. Did Marco Polo Go to China? (1995)
This is only a sample of general works on travel writing. Don't worry if you can't get hold of some of these, and do look yourself for specific works on particular writers, periods and themes. You can find a wider selection of sources, including online sources at www.studiesintravelwriting.com

 

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Last updated: 27 June 2018