Travel writing is arguably the most persistent of all literary genres and is found in numerous cultures across the world. How do we define travel narratives? What kinds of real or imaginary geographies do travelers chart? How are travel narratives affected by encounters with cultural others and by ideologies of colonialism? Do male and female travelers see the world differently and does that difference mark their texts? To answer these questions we will study literary texts from the medieval period to the present as well as films including The Voyages and Travailes of Sir John Mandeville Knight, Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo, Chris Marker’s essay film Sans Soleil,Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and selections from the New Granta Book of Travel. Students will have occasion to think about--and conduct research on—the shape of travel narratives now, their relationship to tourism, the food industry and globalization.
The Junior Research Seminar is designed to involve students in the kinds of research that the discipline of literary studies currently demands, including: working with primary sources and archival materials; reviewing the critical literature; using online databases of historical newspapers, periodicals, and other cultural materials; exploring relevant contexts in literary, linguistic, and cultural history; studying the etymological history and changing meanings of words; experimenting with new methods of computational analysis of texts; and other methodologies. The course typically involves a few main texts that are studied intensively from a variety of approaches. Research exercises throughout the semester will enable and culminate in a final project: either a scholarly essay of 10-15 pages or a creative project. In either case, the final project must emerge out of each student's intensive, independent research agenda.