Travel Writing (Section 2)

2559-502:
Discipline: English Writing
Instructor: Bakopoulos
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1300
End: 1415
Field Work: Day 1 - Casablanca - 23 April | Morocco
Prerequisites: An introductory composition course. Some advanced essay writing/creative nonfiction experience helpful but not necessary. Download Syllabus

In this course we will examine various types of travel writing, both classic and contemporary,
and the way in which writers interact with and engage with the places they visit. Students will
keep an informal, daily travel journal as well as write two formal essays about a particular place.
Pico Iyer has famously described travel writing as love story: He describes the way he, after a
trip, would lie in his bed and play back his travel memories, looking through photos and reading
diary entries: “Anyone witnessing this strange scene,” he writes, “would have drawn the right
conclusion: I was in love.” We will examine the ways in which travel writing is a sort of love
story. But whether the story is happy or tragic, wistful or comedic, all involve some sort of
search, journey, or quest and both an emotional and physical distance traveled. Just like being in
love: after, we are never the same. We will examine the ways in which travel writing—both of
published authors and the writing we will produce in this course—is also often prone to nostalgic
impulse, the romantic foreign gaze, and, as is often the case with more contemporary writers, an
acute self-awareness about this nostalgia. In this course we will open our minds and rattle our
senses.

Field Work

Country: Morocco
Day: 1 - Casablanca - 23 April

“Narration is an act of translation: we aren't recording an experience, we’re translating it.” (Peter Turchi, “You and I Know, Order is Everything”). For this exercise, taking place in the last of our series of stops, students will explore the open-air market and then write about their experience. As we will have been discussing through the semester, as Paul Theroux has famously said: “When something human is recorded, good travel writing happens.” Students will be asked to produce a piece that is not necessarily a recording of the situation, but of the story. That is, to somehow use the experience in the market to illuminate and interrogate an emotional response and to somehow present the experience as a microcosm of a larger concern. The only stipulation here is that students don’t simply record their experience as a series of events: (“first we visited a stall selling spices, and then we found a man who made instruments”) but instead to use the experience at scaffolding to capture something greater about their Moroccan experience, whether it has to do with someone they met, something they discussed, or the general feelings and insights that arose from the experience. Academic Objectives:

  1. To structure a narrative and imbue it not only with a sequence of events but an emotional experience
  2. To consider significance of a piece of writing: to think about presenting an experience as a microcosm of a larger concern.