This fall, my graduate seminar is called "Beyond East and West: Travel Writing and Globalization." It has some overlap with the South-Asia oriented course I did last spring, and mentioned here. But this course is broader in scope:
This course explores the genre of the travel narrative, a key site of cross-cultural encounter. The travel narrative has often been linked to colonialism, with the familiar figure of a European traveler who sets out to observe and classify exotic native "others," to shock and impress his readers back home. But even as early as the 18th century, the "others" were also traveling, and Indian writers like Dean Mahomet wrote about their experiences in the west even as writers like J.S. Mill catalogued India -- and this course will aim to study both, as well as the interaction between the two. Second, we will explore the long tradition of travel narratives by women, which challenge the conventional notion of travel writing as a masculine genre. And finally, the genre continues to run strong even in our current era of globalization, albeit with new voices in play, and often a new sense of humility about the limits of one's position as an observer. This class will begin with early travel writing by writers like Daniel Defoe, Olaudah Equiano, and the aforementioned Mahomet, before moving on to narratives written in the
twentieth century. Modern writers will include Pandita Ramabai, Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Joseph Conrad, Katherine Mayo, Amitav Ghosh, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Pankaj Mishra, and Tayeb Salih.
Through the course, we will enter into a serious inquiry into the ethics of travel, associated as it is with a host of theoretical concepts, including cosmopolitanism, Imperialism (old and new), universalism, hybridity, and globality.
And here are some links:
Michel de Montaign, "On Cannibals"
Peter Hulme, excerpts from Colonial Encounters (a review)
Pandita Ramabai (excerpts from her travels in America)
Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Sightseeing
Amitav Ghosh, The Glass Palace
Pankaj Mishra, Temptations of the West
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
V.S. Naipaul, Enigma of Arrival
Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North
Upamanyu Chatterjee, English, August
Nelofer Pazira, A Bed of Red Flowers
* * *
My other course is an introductory undergraduate course called "Secrecy and Authorship":
What do we make of authors who are not who they say they are? There have been a number of recent front-page controversies about authors who misrepresented themselves, fooling publishers and readers alike. But such controversies are not new; they have, in fact, been going on for as long as we have had the modern concept of authorship. The concern over the role of the author provokes discussions of anonymous and pseudonymous authors, racial and sexual "passing," as well as plagiarism. This course will explore controversies of authorship in literary works, contemporary and historical, fictional and nonfictional, analyzing what it is that makes an author an Author. Why do some authors conceal their identities? Where does originality come from? What kinds of borrowings (or influences) are considered legitimate? How might authorship be changing in the digital age?
Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Michael Cunningham, The Hours
Colm Toibin, The Master
Vladimir Nabokov, Despair
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Thomas Mann, “Felix Krull” (short story)
Henry James, “The Aspern Papers” (long short story/novella)
Nella Larsen, “Passing” (novella)
On the life of Thomas Chatterton (photocopies from a biography)
Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?”
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
* * *
Anyone out there want to share their own syllabi? What are you teaching? If you're a student, what books are you going to be reading this fall? (And no, you don't have to be in English -- I'm still interested!