Literature of Travel: ENGL 101
Dr. Greg Clingham
Fall 2002

Class time: Tues, Thurs, 9.30-11.00 a.m.
Classroom: Vaughan Literature 103

Office Hours:
M, 1.30-3.30 p.m.
T, 11.00 a.m.-12.00 p.m.
Thur, 2.00-4.00 p.m.

Vaughan Lit 233
Taylor Hall 6
Tel: 577-1188/1552

Objectives of Course

Everyone travels at some time, and the act of going on a journey is, in some form, one of the fundamental experiences of human life, just as it is a common metaphor for individual human life itself. Journeys are the subject of just about every literary genre in existence.

This course will be organized around the themes of self, culture, history, writing, and travel. Our reading will repeatedly come back to the questions: what do we learn about ourselves in writing about journeys and traveling? What do we learn about other places, people and cultures in those same acts of writing? And what insights do we get into writing itself as we recognize the existence of dynamic, creative relationships among writing, identity, and history?

There are, of course, no simple answers to such large, complex questions, but there is the possibility of exploring the issues in a number of different ways so that we increase our knowledge of the large philosophical questions as well as specific literary texts. To this end we will consider examples of travel writing from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, taking us to Brazil, Jamaica, West Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, India, Holland, Sweden, Turkey, France, Italy, and the USA. The course will be organized historically in that we will attempt to place our texts in time, as historically conditioned explorations of exotic places and cultures; but it will also be historical in that we will consider the function of perspective in our texts, examining the cultural presuppositions, biographical facts, and gendered predisposition that condition the authorial point of view.


Norton Book of Travel, ed. Paul Fussell (Norton, 1987).

Life-Writing by British Women 1660-1815: An Anthology, ed. Carolyn A. Barros and Johanna M. Smith (Northeastern Univ. Press, 2000).

Organization of Course

As far as possible, this will be a collaborative, student-centered course in which everyone plays some part in exploring the issues, questions, and texts pertaining to travel literature. There will be occasional informal lectures from me, providing background and various ways of placing our texts historically and culturally, but the emphasis of our classes will be on our structured discussions, including your oral reports, small group activity, in-class writing, and your own personal travel writing.

We will be watching two films that will aim to extend and complicate our understanding of foreign cultures in relation to our own: “Big Night” and “Babette’s Feast.” Both films are about food.

There will be regular visits to the library, as a means of developing our research skills and to become generally more familiar with the resources of the library.

Since this is a W1 class writing and the discussion about writing will form an important part of our activities. We will undertake various forms of writing, including formally researched critical essays, short in-class responses, and your own more imaginative travel discourses. We will consider the process of writing and work with developing your drafts into a final form. And, not least, we will consider the importance of the use of imitation and models, and the essential importance of reading in developing your writing.    



The final grade for this course will be structured as follows:

To do well in this class you need to work consistently: do readings and assignments punctually as they occur, contribute usefully, and work on your writing with commitment.


Regular attendance is essential; you will be penalized for absences that are not justified.


Work Schedule

Introduction (Aug. 29)
Modern Perceptions (Sept. 3, 5, 10, 12, 17)

Paper 1. Due Sept. 19.

The Grand Tour and its Ironies (Sept. 19, 24, 26; Oct. 1, 3, 8, 10)

Paper 2. Due Oct. 15.

Empire and After (Oct. 15, 17, 24, 29, 31)
Gender, Writing and Travel (Nov. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26; Dec. 3, 5)

Paper 3: Due Dec. 5.

Conclusions (Dec. 10)