Travel Writing (Section 4)

Discipline: English Writing
Instructor: Seib
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1425
End: 1540
Field Work: Day 1 - Yokohama - 29 January | Japan
Prerequisites: An introductory composition course. Some advanced essay writing/creative nonfiction experience helpful but not necessary. Download Syllabus

Travel stories aren’t just what we tell an audience upon our return home from a journey; they reveal to ourselves what we’ve learned. We want to describe moments that have rattled us or moved us or changed the way we think and feel. But to make a travel story truly memorable requires understanding of techniques, care for accuracy, engagement of the senses, personal insight, and knowledge of stories that have been told before. In this class, we will create travel stories that remain vivid, memorable and relevant long after we have left ports. We will write to uncover what is authentic about our experience, then revise our drafts to make them more intelligent, coherent, and entertaining. The class will be structured around workshops, readings, and discussions where we consider our identities as travelers, and we will analyze our responses to encounters. Students will keep a travel journal, write personal essays and complete in-class writing exercises. Writing that has been peer reviewed and critiqued will be honed and resubmitted as final drafts. Emphasis will given to the personal essay, but we will also look at examples of fiction and poetry to help us achieve different effects.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 1 - Yokohama - 29 January

When it comes to contrasts in urban spaces, Tokyo is the place. For our field lab, we will travel by public transit from Yokohama Port to Shibuya Station and Harajuku, where we will observe, take notes on and try to make sense of these vibrant and complex urban areas. We will experience one of the most modern urban landscapes in the world in proximity to the Meiji Shrine grounds, a place of tradition and spirituality. We will observe the city’s transformation as day turns to night and we will enjoy a Japanese dinner out before returning to the ship. In the three destinations of Shibuya Station, Harajuku and Yoyogi Park/Meiji Shrine, students will take detailed descriptive notes in their journals, take pictures, experiment with technology, meet locals, and consider course readings in relation to their observations. Students will collect specific types of information and experiences in the different locales, and a portion of the day will be dedicated to listening and creating a written soundscape. Given that the weather might be very cold, our activities will be both indoors and outdoors, and students will need to bring currency for expenses inside cafés or arcades and for making small purchases (purikura, street food). Students will rely upon their notes to write a 1250-1500 word personal travel essay about their experience. Notes from the field lab will be handed in. The essay will be workshopped and peer reviewed prior to being submitted in final draft. This assignment counts for 30% of your final grade. Academic Objectives:

  1. Students will gain a pedestrian’s experience of the contrasting sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures and ways of life at Shibuya Station, Harajuku and Meiji Shrine.
  2. Students will learn to take detailed descriptive notes while on location and see through a writer’s lens, not just a tourist lens.
  3. Students will apply course readings to their observations.