ENGL 2250: Understanding Literature: Travel Literature

Spring 2014
Bemidji State University
Prof M C Morgan | mmorgan@bemidjistate.edu | @mcmorgan
HS 314 | Office hours - Just before and after class is best: R 3:15 - 4:00
Thursdays, 4:00 - 6:40

Required Texts

URL for the Course

Weekly reading assignments and announcements will appear at this URL:

Catalogue Description

Reading and critical appreciation of various types of literature, such as autobiography, drama, film, novel, poetry, and specialized genres such as Travel Literature Liberal Education Goal Area 6.

This section of ENGL2250: Understanding Literature focuses on travel literature - in our case, recently published, brief narratives rather than novel-length narratives. About half of the works we're reading are published in the US, the other half in Britain. We'll also be reading a longer, book-length travel narrative, one combines an account of travel in Australia and the US with accounts of travel in the very young Internet, titled Hello World, from 2004.

Travel narrative is a popular genre, and, to our benefit as readers, pretty loosely defined. It presents a variety of ways of recording what people see and do when they are out of their comfortable space; it presents a variety of ways of making sense of the world, a variety of ways of understanding the self, and, when it's well done, travel narrative makes for some interesting reading.

Some of the stories will be seemingly straight-forward. Some will be obscure and difficult. Most will be worth a close read and re-reading - if we give them a chance and find a way in to the work.

Attendance is required. Participation is expected. Keeping up with the reading is obligatory.

Weekly Notes

Prepare and submit each week at the start of the session a page or so - single spaced, word processed - of notes and observations on the readings for the week. Initially, these might include questions and concerns about the reading itself, but as we move into the course, they should become more focused on observations on topics, techniques, and connections and comparisons between the narratives. Initially, these notes may be more reaction than consideration (Boring, Didn't read all the way through, Love it! I really feel for the woman!); but as we move into the course, these notes should become more considered, more focused on the narrative than on reaction to it. Some weeks, I may give you a specific question or angle to address in these notes.

To repeat: A page to a page and a half, single spaced, word processed notes of observation on the readings for the week. Informal. No thesis necessary - or wanted. Full name. Submitted at the beginning of the session. Late notes will not be accepted for a grade.

Less Lecture - More Seminar

Expect to read 2-3 narratives each week, with weekly discussions. For the first part of each class meeting, I'll lead a discussion. For the second half, one or two of you will lead.

To start out the course, we'll have a general discussion on the current readings addressing questions you have and matters I bring up. Discussion is the keyword. I will present some observations on narrative discourse and narrative technique early on (terms, methods) but I hope to make my presentations brief and then open the floor to your practice and discussion. My job in these discussions is to keep us on track and focused on the critical perspective we are taking in the course: narrative technique and narrative discourse.

Starting in week 3 or 4 - you will have the opportunity to incite and manage the discussion on the current reading, starting with a critical question that stems from your observations, or a question or matter you develop or that I assign (as a last resort). You may work alone or with another student. You must volunteer to run the discussion, and you can volunteer (almost) as much as you like. Everyone should run the discussion at least once over the 12 weeks or so of open discussion. You gain points when you run the discussion. The more points, the better your possibility of a higher grade.


Points for leading discussions. Points for participating in the discussions. Points for weekly notes. I will ask you to compose a travel narrative for a final: a 5- 7-10 page written or multimodal project composed over the last few weeks of the course.

The Usual

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