Literature of the Sea

Discipline: Special Topics in Literature
Instructor: Brayton
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 1 - Tuesday, 29 September | Turkey Download Syllabus

Writers have long found the sea and the modes of human interaction with it a cause for wonder and reflection. A mirror of the soul, for some, but for others a desert, the sea has profoundly influenced the imaginations of writers throughout history and across cultures. The sheer variety of literary genres with which writers have reflected upon the sea and its meanings suggests that writing and voyaging on the water share a deep affinity. In this course we will read a sampling of global literature in which the sea acts as the setting, a body of symbolism, a mystery, the agent of divine wrath, an epistemological challenge, a means of escape, and a reason to reflect on the human relationship to nature.

Field Work

Country: Turkey
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 29 September

In this field seminar we will explore the maritime history of Istanbul as displayed at the Naval Museum in Besiktas. We will begin the seminar at one of the “yali,” or villas, on the Bosphorus (or the Kucukcu Palace, depending on availability), in order to orient ourselves to the Strait. From there we will walk to Naval Museum. Later we will walk through the Besiktas Fish Market. As well as exploring the rich history of this highly aquatic city and culture, we will analyze the ways in which “official” history emphasizes some elements and overlooks others. Our goals will be to develop an understanding of the port as a historical palimpsest (series of overlying layers) and to examine critically the institutional formation of cultural narratives of history and place. What does the sea mean in Turkish history? What are the key features of the port infrastructure, present and past, and how have they changed over time?