TRAVEL WRITING PAST AND PRESENT: THEMES, FORMS, AND CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES - 2020/1

Module code: ELIM047

Module Overview

This module introduces students firstly to the long tradition of travel writing in British (and Western) culture; secondly, to the key critical, theoretical and political debates associated with this influential genre. The first segment of the module provides a historical overview of key stages of the genre’s evolution from medieval times to modernity; the bulk of the module then explores a broad range of more recent travel writing, from the 1970s to the present day. Issues to be addressed include: the relationship between fact and fiction in travel writing, and the genre’s epistemological status; the genre’s function as a form of memoir and a medium for self-fashioning; the strategies of ‘othering’ deployed in the genre, and the ethical and geopolitical implications of these strategies; how considerations of gender, race and sexuality may differently inflect the genre. In keeping with the last aim, the texts for consideration will be drawn from a variety of authors/perspectives, thereby demonstrating the highly varied, international dimensions of the modern travel genre.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

THOMPSON Carl (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: Q320

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Week 1: Introduction: Defining ‘Travel Writing’

Week 2: Historical Context 1: From Medieval to Early Modern Travel Writing

Week 3: Historical Context 2: Explorers, Tourists and the Literary ‘Traveller’

Week 4: Travel Writing’s Resurgence in the 1970s [Bruce Chatwin]

Week 5: Travel Writing and Gender [Robyn Davidson]

Week 6: Postcolonial Travel Writing [Amitav Ghosh]

Week 7: Home Travels / Dark Tourism [W.G. Sebald]

Week 8: Comic Travel Writing [Redmond O’Hanlon]

Week 9: Travel Writing and Sexuality [Edmund White]

Week 10: New Cultural History [Joanna Kavenna]

Week 11: Memoir and Mobility [Jenni Diski / Colleen McElroy]

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Critical Essay (4000 words) OR Creative Portfolio (3000 words) plus Critical Commentary (1000 words) 100

Alternative Assessment

n/a

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module learning outcomes. Seminar discussion with ongoing tutor feedback is designed to assess professional/practical skills in communicating ideas orally and transferable skills in working individually and collaboratively. It also assesses subject knowledge relating to formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of travel writing. Seminars also assess cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking and in the analysis of literary form and language. The 4000-word critical essay assesses subject knowledge relating to the close analysis of form, meaning and language, as well as cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking, and professional/practical skills in communicating ideas in writing. It also assesses subject knowledge relating to formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of travel writing. The 4000-word essay further assesses transferable skills, namely the ability to conduct research for written work in an organised and critical fashion and to develop and communicate imaginative and rigorous arguments. The 3000-word creative portfolio and 1000-word critical commentary encourages the development of students’ skills in creative travel writing (prose and/or poetry) and their understanding of the context of their work in historical and cultural terms, as well as in terms of other travel writing in the field. Productive and informed critical reflection on both the literary writing itself and the secondary material that surrounds it will provide a context for their creative writing on themes related to developments in the literary and creative industries.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

• A critical essay (4000 words) or

• A creative portfolio (3000 words) + critical commentary (1000 words) Formative assessment and feedback Formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussion and tutor feedback in seminars.

Module aims

  • • Introduce students to travel writing, exploring the wider historical, political and cultural contexts which have generated the main forms of modern travel writing
  • • Expand students’ knowledge of the diverse forms, modes and purposes encompassed by the travel writing genre
  • • Enable students to think critically about differences and similarities between in form, purpose and historical context
  • • Equip students to identify and interrogate the ways in which travel writing challenges conventional literary-historical notions such as canonicity and the prioritisation of aesthetic concerns
  • • Enable students to hone their critical and analytical skills through examination of a variety of primary travel texts and their wider historical/cultural contexts
  • • Encourage students to develop their own writerly styles and abilities in the light of or by engaging with both recent and historical travel writing

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed Ref
001 Recognise the cultural and historical importance of travel writing K
002 Demonstrate advanced critical thinking and detailed engagement with scholarship on travel writing C
003 Analyse key issues associated with travel writing
004 Communicate orally in group discussion and in written form in the written assessment
005 Work individually and as part of the group PT
006 Develop a creative project connected to travel or travel writing, whilst also reflecting productively on the creative process and social responsibilities involved in such a project [Creative Writing students]

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 128

Seminar Hours: 22

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to deliver subject knowledge, to develop cognitive/ analytical skills, and to develop in-depth transferable, practical, and professional skills. The delivery of the module through two-hour seminars places an emphasis on student-led learning, and enables students to develop their skills in analysing, communicating, and debating ideas. The module content is research-led and asks students to develop a sophisticated understanding of formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of travel writing. This relates to the programme learning and teaching strategy, which, at FHEQ Levels 6 and 7, is designed to develop subject knowledge through two-hour seminars and to develop transferable and professional skills, with an emphasis on sophisticated student-led involvement, critical analysis and discussion. The learning and teaching methods include:

• 2-hour seminar per week x 11 weeks

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for TRAVEL WRITING PAST AND PRESENT: THEMES, FORMS, AND CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES : http://aspire.surrey.ac.uk/modules/elim047

Other information

none

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Creative Writing MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
English Literature MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.