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current students > seminars > fall 2012 schedule > seminar: The Politics of Modern Travel


Honors Seminars Fall 2012

The Politics of Modern Travel

HON 293 Sec:002  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities: Literature  
Winston 002  
Dr. Rebecca A. Walsh
Assistant Professor

Travel often spells adventure, excitement, and the "new," and can promise to unlock the mysteries of foreign terrain as well as the inner terrain of the traveler him- or herself. This was certainly the case during the 19th and early 20th century, when the genre of travel writing enjoyed several cycles of popularity in the popular imagination, and magazines like The National Geographic was being read ever more widely in the U.S. and abroad. This interest in travel and exploration occurred alongside very real forms of migration and movement happening during this period, which reflects several palpable historical changes in the modern world: the rise of new technologies making travel easier and the rise of capitalism/marketing making "packaged" travel a new option for the masses; the rise of anthropology focused on studying and comparing world cultures; the rise of imperialism and the attempt by Western countries to build and control world empires; and the ways that various wars forced people to engage with "foreign" cultures and to question their sense of their own identities. This course will focus on a range of late 19th- and early 20th-century texts that feature travel, migration, or movement in some way, and will trace the historical, cultural, and political contexts that help to illuminate the needs that travel might be serving. While some of our reading will focus on examples of "travel writing" as a genre (travel memoirs, travelogues, travel journalism), some of it will focus on the ways that literary fiction and film is affected by and reflects upon travel. We will also read essays from literary studies, sociology, and cultural studies that comment on aspects of the travel experience such as the advent of the passport, the nature of the postcard, and the function of travel guides, etc.

The majority of the texts we will read are Western in origin (spanning European, Anglo-American, Afro-American, and Caribbean writers) though the course texts may encompass a few "World Literature" texts as well. Some items likely to appear on the syllabus include 19th-century Jamaican writer Mary Seacole's The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands; Virginia Woolf's novel The Voyage Out; Passage to India (both E.M. Forster's 1924 novel and the 1984 film adaptation); African-American star Paul Robeson's 1937 film Jericho; African-American George Schuyler's pulp fiction of the 1930s; and James Baldwin's fiction of the 1950s. Students will likely produce two papers, one presentation, and an exam or two.