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; the environmentalist affordances and challenges of the genre; 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

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 66

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 55

Captured Content: 7

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Introduction: Defining ‘Travel Writing’

From Medieval to Early Modern Travel Writing

18th and 19th Century Travel Writing

Modernist Travel Writing [Graham Greene]

Postmodernist Travel Writin [Bruce Chatwin

]Travel Writing and Gender [Robyn Davidson]

Post-Tourism, Anti-Tourism and

PsychogeographyPostcolonial Travel Writing [Amitav Ghosh

]Travel Writing and the New Nature Writing [Olivia Laing

]Travel Writing and New Cultural History [Black British Travel Writing]

Eco-Travel Writing and Dark Tourism

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


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module learning outcomes.

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.

  • Students also have the opportunity to discuss draft extract and essay plans in 1-to-1 tutorials ahead of final submission

Seminar discussion with ongoing tutor feedback is designed to develop professional/practical skills in communicating ideas orally, and transferable skills in working individually and collaboratively. It also develops subject knowledge relating to formal, contextual, critical, and theoretical approaches to the study of travel writing. Seminars also develop 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. [Employability] 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 provides a context for their creative writing on themes related to developments in the literary and creative industries. [Employability]

Module aims

  • The module aims to: 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
001 By the end of the module students will be able to: 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 Identify and analyse key issues associated with travel writing KC
004 Develop advanced communication skills (orally in group discussions; in written form) PT
005 Develop ability to work individually and as part of the group, demonstrating independent working, time management and other core skills PT
006 Reflect productively on the creative processes involved in travel writing and on the social, ethical and environmental responsibilities involved in this literary form [Creative Writing students] CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

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. It is a delivery mode especially well suited to this module’s subject matter and student cohort: the international composition of the latter means that students hear diverse reflections on the representations of place and culture offered in the reading material – these often include the impressions from students who come from the cultures and communities being described in the text, which can be an invaluable perspective for helping students understand how textual representations may construct and/or distort what they claim to be objectively describe. [Global And Cultural Capabilities].

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. In most years, the content of the final 1 or 2 sessions is adjusted in light of that cohort’s specific interests in travel writing. More generally, the discussions of space/place, geocriticism and ecocriticism [Sustainability] offered on the MA’s core modules dovetail with the theoretical concerns of this module, while students seeking to prioritize an internationalist perspective on modern literature and literary studies may combine this module with other modules that include considerations of postcolonial, international Shakespeare adaptations, for example, or which includes sessions on recent work internationally in the fantasy genre (e.g. on African-authored fantasy forms) [Global and Cultural Capabilities]. Journalistic modes of travel writing are discussed alongside more literary variants of the genre, thereby broadening the module’s relevance to Employability.

The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning.

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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELIM047

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Global and Cultural Capabilities: the representation of other cultures, communities and places around the world is travel writing’s core concern. This module accordingly both introduces students to a great variety of cultures and locations around the world, through its core texts, and crucially, educates them in the complexities of all such cross-cultural representations. It considers both the positive potentialities of the form (i.e. its scope to promote cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and cosmopolitanism) and also the more negative dangers and problems that have often historically accompanied such representations of ‘other’ or ‘foreign’ communities (e.g. stereotyping, conscious and unconscious bias, etc). This is an educative exercise greatly enhanced by the international cohort this module typically recruits: this brings diverse and global perspectives to bear on all the set texts (and these usually include responses from students whose culture is the one being written about, who are thus able to correct misinformation and misperceptions in the travel writer), and stimulates useful discussion from all students about their own subject positions, inherited assumptions and the ‘imagined geographies’ operating their own culture.

Sustainability: If travel writing is inherently a genre concerned with depicting cultures around the globe, it is also a genre that does much to mediate and construct our understandings of specific places, environments and ecosystems. This is a key theme focused on throughout the module, but especially in the sessions concerned with eco-travel writing and nature writing. Here students are invited to reflect on the diverse ways in which tourism, travel and travel writing are entangled with current environmental debates, concerns and challenges, and they address also the form’s potential for communicating effectively vital environmental information and for encouraging a more environmentalist outlook.

Please note that in academic years when this module is rested and/or alternated, a two-week Travel Writing segment is usually included elsewhere in the degree, so as to introduce students to the issues and opportunities discussed above.

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 2025/6 academic year.