ENGLISH 449 - American Travel Narratives

Summer 2007

Dr. Battenburg jbattenb@calpoly.edu
Office: 38-109
Phone: 756-2945
Office Hours: T & TH 9-10 or by appointment

Course Description:

American Travel Narratives focuses on travel literature as ordeal, confessional, biography, education, and/or emergence. Although this course will consider contemporary travel literature by Americans in the U.S. and abroad, class discussion will also deal with the roots and common patterns of such narratives. Students will be required to write a short travel narrative (4-6 pages), write a critical paper on the travel narrative genre (10-12 pages), and participate in class discussions and presentations.


Bryson, Bill. Notes from a Small Island. New York: Harper Perennial, 1995.

Tim Cahill and Jason Wilson, eds. The Best American Travel Writing 2006. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2006.

Mayes, Frances. Under the Tuscan Sun. At Home in Italy. New York: Broadway, 1997.

Primeau, Ronald. Romance of the Road. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997.

Symmes, Patrick. Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

Class Requirements and Grading Procedure:

1) Attendance is required. More than two absences will significantly lower your final grade.
2) No late assignments or exams will be accepted. In case of an emergency, contact me before the work is due.
3) Class Participation: 25%
4) Travel Narrative: 25%
5) Critical Paper: 50%

Tentative Schedule:


Introduction to American Travel Writing

MON 25

Primeau Romance of the Road (pp. ix-67)


Primeau Romance of the Road (pp. 69-143)

WED 27

Cahill and Wilson The Best American Travel Writing 2006
Behar "The Selling of the Last Savage" (pp. 6-23)
Bennett "How to Sail Across the Atlantic" (pp. 24-43)
Flynn "Where They Love Americans . . . for a Living" (pp. 105-121)
Friend "The Parachute Artist" (pp. 135-152)


Cahill and Wilson The Best American Travel Writing 2006
Jenkins "A Short Walk in the Wakhan Corridor" (pp. 156-174)
Julavits "Naked Ambition" (pp. 175-178)
Paterniti "XXXXL" (pp. 193-210)
Potts "Tantric Sex for Dilettantes" (pp. 218-223)
Salak "Rediscovering Libya" (pp. 224-238)


Cahill and Wilson The Best American Travel Writing 2006
Saunders "The New Mecca" (pp. 239-263)
Sedaris "Turbulence" (pp. 264-270)
Trillin "Speaking of Soup" (311-318)

TUES 3 Guest Presentation

Tips for Writing a Travel Narrative

Christopher Weir "Aimless in Arizona" (handout)




Film: Motorcycle Dairies


Bryson Notes from a Small Island (pp. 1-160)


Bryson Notes from a Small Island (pp. 161-317)

WED 11

Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun (pp. vii-139)

Personal Travel Narrative Due


Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun (pp. 140-288)

MON 16

Symmes Chasing Che (pp. 3-145)


Symmes Chasing Che (pp. 146-302)

WED 18

Guest Presentation

Clement Salvadori "Riding the Divide: Canada to Mexico the Back Way" (handout)



MON 23





Guidelines for Presentations on Travel Writing

Each of you will be responsible for leading out in class discussion for a specific travel narrative. All students are expected to read and analyze the travel works as well as deal with the questions below; however, on the day you will facilitate our exploration of a particular work, you are required to prepare more thoroughly. Consider the questions below and deal with additional issues concerning travel writing. Because the writers differ, I have no rigid guidelines for your presentation and leading out in discussion. In certain cases with established travel writers such as Bryson or Mayes, for example, I would expect you to examine their other travel works and deal with reviews of their writing. In other cases, brief presentations on other articles by the same writer may be beneficial. I would also like you to use the multimedia equipment whenever possible in your presentations. Travel writing is sometimes accompanied by photos, video, or other types of media.

American Travel Narratives is an adventure and experiment for all of us in the class. As with travel on the open road, we learn by sharing our experiences and observing those of others.

Questions to Consider about Travel Writing:

*What are the strengths and weaknesses of the narrative? Be specific.
*How does the writer use language effectively?
*Comment on structure, character development, scene setting, and dialogue.
*Consider the writer's use of imagery, specificity, and metaphor.
*How does the place, time frame, and other external factors influence the work?
*In what ways does the mode of travel affect the work?
*How does the writer deal with the conflict of being an outsider looking in?
*Is the writer believable? Why or why not?
*What do you think the writer learns from his or her experience?