We will read modern women writers from diverse sociopolitical and cultural backgrounds. In the spirit of Semester at Sea and its quest for global understanding through the unfamiliar, we will focus on traveling—both literally and metaphorically. The traditional space for women is static, without much mobility, in most societies. Some brave women, however, break away from the familiar into uncharted waters—to gain or regain a sense of self by connecting themselves to others and locating themselves in the world. For them, travel becomes writing, and writing becomes travel. Writing is overall the ultimate means of self-preservation.
We will delve into various meanings of travel for women writers and their characters on a wide spectrum—from breaking away to returning, in novels such as Virginia Wolfe’s To the Lighthouse and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth. What is the meaning of home? What is learned in exile or separation? What is their historical situation? How does travel transform their lives? Toward the end of the semester, students will link their own experience of travel to those of the writers we read.