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Eighteenth-century Travel Writing

Key information

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Module description


Travel writing is an important literary genre that makes sense of the world in many different ways. In the eighteenth century, it was a hugely popular genre in which questions of nation, identity and cultural difference were represented, established, tested and changed. This course looks at how eighteenth-century travellers wrote about their experiences, asked questions and used their imaginations. The selection of authors includes travellers to Europe, around Britain, to the South Seas, Scandinavia and the previously unexplored regions of the air. It explores a wide range of topics such as fantasy, satire, sensibility, nature, religion and progress, the body, gender, class, ethnicity, race and cultural difference.

This module is organised around the close reading of a significant text every week, highlighting different aspects of the genre and critical themes.  Assessment will be by 4000 word essay, responding to primary and secondary texts.


Assessment details


1 x 4000 word essay (100%)

Educational aims & objectives

1. To have a historically nuanced understanding of the forms of  travel writing in Britain 1700-1800

2. To develop students' knowledge of the literature of the period in relation to cultures of travelling and exploration

3. To increase students' familiarity with concepts relevant to travel writing such as cultural encounter, space, time and mobility

4. To develop students'  ability to use concepts of gender, class, ethnicity, race and nation in relation to the production, content, circulation and reception of eighteenth-century travel writing. 

5. To develop students' critical reading skills and understanding of key issues in relevant criticism on travel writing. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 6 module and in particular will be able to:

1. analyse critically a variety of travel writing texts from the period 1700-1800

2. demonstrate broad awareness and relevant reference to the circumstances of production and reception of those works

3. demonstrate detailed knowledge of well-established theories and concepts of travel writing, including critical debates of the last decade.

4. synthesize different ideas, contexts and frameworks 

5. communicate reading and research effectively, through oral presentations and discussion (formative assessment)

6. develop and sustain an argument, drawing on appropriate resources (to be demonstrated through final essay).

Embedded employability: skills of analysis, research skills and written and oral communication suitable for a variety of professional roles, and particular knowledge of travel writing as a genre, with its intersecting disciplines of history, geography and literature. 

Teaching pattern

One 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour seminar per week