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Topics in American Literature

ENGL 286.301
MWF 11

This course will focus on three kinds of archetypal journeys in American culture: going West, going abroad, and going home. After a look at earlier masters of travel writing like Mark Twain, Henry James, and Edith Wharton, and the expatriate writers of the 1920's like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, we'll focus on travel fiction and non-fiction by contemporary writers like Paul Bowles, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, John Updike, Philip Roth, Anne Tyler, Paul Theroux, Paul Fussell, and Mary Morris. 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 literal event and social phenomenon perceived by journalists and essayists and travel as symbol and metaphor in imaginative writing; 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 term paper of 8-10 pages, and a piece of original travel writing. Essays may be revised and will be submitted in a final portfolio.

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