Travel Writing

Discipline: English Writing
Instructor: Morris
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1415
End: 1530
Field Work: Day 1 | South Africa Download Syllabus

Travel Writing is a hybrid course that focuses both on travel and on writing.  A typical class period will include ad hoc writing assignments mixed with pointed discussion of the assigned reading or viewing.  We will explore travel as concept and event, discussing narrative texts—from films to memoirs to intellectual history—both about travel and by travelers.  (We will ask about such important questions as the differences between travelers and tourists.)  The texts we read together—both assigned on the syllabus and emerging ad hoc through the process of discussion—will help us approach travel less as raw experience than as experience shaped and represented through narrative.

The course, however, will also consistently focus on your own writing.  We will read and discuss—in small increments—journalist Roy Peter Clark’s recent book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (2006).  We will talk in class about what makes for effective travel writing.  The classroom will, in addition, provide space for structured and improvisational exercises meant to present you with specific writing challenges. There will be time to share, in the semi-privacy of small groups, your own written experience as a traveler and to workshop your work-in-progress with classmates and with the instructor.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1

Table Mountain--part of the Table Mountain National Park--is an immense flat-topped landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town, South Africa.  The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge"), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503. Table Mountain has an unusually rich biodiversity with much of the vegetation belonging to the Cape Floral Region protected areas, a World Heritage Site.  An estimated 2,200 species of plants are confined to Table Mountain, more than in the entire U.K., including many endemic species found nowhere else.  The Table Mountain range has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world. Academic Objectives:
  • Our academic objective—based on the educational trio of related and at times compatible options, “knowledge-skill-experience”—is to share an experience and then (melding first-hand knowledge with ad-hoc research) to write about it.  It will be our own experiment in the multiple perspectives suggested in American poet Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  Since at this point in the course you are all practiced writers, we will discuss what happens—what we can learn and possibly steal--when twenty or so SAS travelers look at (ascend and descend) fabled Table Mountain.