Writing in Global Contexts – Travel Writing (WRIT 380)
*Undergraduate applicants only, graduate students are not eligible*
In Western literature, there’s a long history of writing about travel – both the physical and mental journeys taken away from home. From The Odyssey to The Travels of Marco Polo, to accounts of Europeans on “the Grand Tour,” audiences have been drawn to the experiences that others undertake abroad and the way those experiences transform the lives of the people who take them. Today, travel literature remains a popular and enduring form – its variations encompass everything from social media posts and in-flight magazines to influential and best-selling books. Given this over-abundance, what’s an aspiring travel writer to do? How can young authors possibly write something fresh about places that have been written about ad nauseam for centuries, if not millennia? In a world where practically every corner has been mapped, how can traveling and travel writing possibly take the author and reader anywhere new?
The answer that this course proposes is two-fold, with the first being craft. Readers engage with stories about familiar places because the writer’s prose is irresistible – we can’t help but take a second (or third, or hundredth) helping of the same place because what’s on the page is just that good. The second is through insight. Readers engage with familiar places because the ideas are new – the writer manages to show something unexpected out of a world we thought we knew. Such travel-writing often moves beyond the physical, drawing in elements of social critique, memoir, philosophy, history and more.
Throughout the Maymester, travel will enhance these objectives as we read examples from the genre and visit the places about which many of the authors write. In each location we will also focus on different skills and themes tied to the places and people we encounter in these settings. These encounters will prompt reflection and engagement, culminating in a series of personal journals, blog posts and essays.
Faculty Director: Ben Pack