Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in American Literature

ENGL 286.301
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

This course will focus on three kinds of archetypal journeys in American culture: going into the wilderness, going abroad, and going home. We'll consider road trips, river voyages, western journeys, the European tour, and travel to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Travel writing has its feet in journalism, guidebooks, popular culture and the tourism industry and its head in literary non-fiction and the novel. The literature of travel has always crossed the border between fiction and non-fiction, so we will relate travel writing as a form of journalism and literary non-fiction to the novel and the short story. We'll consider travel as geographical event and social phenomenon and travel as symbol and metaphor; we'll also read a few essays on travel literature, theory, and the relation of travel to race, class, and gender. Course work will include frequent short response papers, e-mail postings, a mid-term essay of 4-5 pages, a final paper of 6-8 pages, and a piece of original travel writing. Essays may be revised and will be submitted in a final portfolio. Readings will emphasize the modern and contemporary and may include such writers as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Cather, Didion, Kerouac, McPhee, Dickey, Morris, Tyler, Bellow, Bowles, Baldwin, Hurston, Theroux, and Matthiesen.