Special Topics In Media #1:
ROAD NARRATIVES: The Colonial Rambler
Why is the world so fascinated by the character of the traveller? Is it because he can float through culture uninhibited, always changing the culture around him rather than being changed? Or maybe because she can simply go where she wishes without a care in the world, becoming escapism embodied? Whatever the reason, this class aims to explore the perverse fantasies of the travel narrative in literature, film, television, and more.
By the end of the course, participants will be able to:
- Understand the formal elements of what makes a travel narrative
- Comprehend the imperialistic lens apparent in travel narratives
- Complete a long piece on the subject of travel narratives
Formal classes will meet twice a week for 75 minutes. During those times, we will engage in short lectures, discussions of reading assignments, screenings, critiques and presentations of students work. There will also be one screening weekly of the work we will be studying in class (if we are studying a film or video that week), tentatively scheduled for Monday night at 7 PM. Students are not required to attend these screenings, but are expected to have watched the work by the subsequent class session.
Someone told me once that just the act of showing up every day matters more than any single piece of work. I’d like to push back against that and allow you two unexcused absences, with two more allowed in dire circumstances (athletic event, illness, dire hangover, etc.) Missing discussion sessions will affect your performance in my class, but more than my limits will result in a lowered grade or automatic failure of the course at my discretion.
There are a few class norms: show up on time, stay for the whole duration, and demonstrate your knowledge of the work we are studying by contributing your opinions. These contributions may take place either verbally during our class time or via more lengthy responses written before or after our class (an introvert myself, I understand how difficult it can be to speak up. Your voice is different, but it still matters.)
The following has been copied from professors in the Media Studies Field Group at Pitzer College:
“We may study sexually explicit, political, and otherwise challenging material in this course. These are not included for shock value, but are legitimate investigations of controversial subject matters in media. You are certainly encouraged to explore difficult and complex subject matters in your work, and you should be prepared to consider these issues intellectually and emotionally. Our class is a safe space in which students can express their beliefs and opinions. You always have a voice, but please be respectful of others as well. Abusive language and behavior will not be tolerated. Open-mindedness is encouraged!”
All reading assignments will either be provided online or in the one assigned textbook ("The Road Movie Book"), and I expect everyone in our class to contribute on our class blog at least once a week discussing the readings and films. This blog post does not need to be lengthy or even complicated, it should simply ask one discussion question for the class or offer up a response to a classmate's discussion question.
Because this class assumes that you are an accomplished student in both Media Studies and Literature studies, the first writing assignment in our class will be a simple progress check to make sure you are up to the standards I expect in my students. "Essay 0" is a time to be adventurous, try new ideas, and receive honest feedback from an instructor.
There will be a larger than normal emphasis placed on your final essay because having that amount of space to run should yield particularly productive work. Please bear this expectation in mind when constructing your piece, and I will extend my availability at office hours.
Essay 0 (750-1000 words): Reflect on one aspect of travel narratives we have discussed in class so far, and apply your reflection to one work of media or literature we have also discussed.
Essay 1 (1800-2500 words): Using at least two of the theory readings on our syllabus (or from a peer-reviewed source), construct an argument about one to three travel narratives.
Essay 2: (2000-2700 words): Using at least three of the theory readings on our syllabus (or from a peer-reviewed source), construct an argument about one to three travel narratives.
Final Essay: (4000-6000 words): Construct a unique argument about travel narratives. Please incorporate at least five peer-reviewed secondary sources, two of which may be required reading. I will be working closely with each student to ensure this project comes out to the high quality of writing I know you are capable of.
One letter grade will be deducted each day that any work is late. (A to B for one day late, A to C for two days late.)
- 10% Attendance & Participation
- 10% Blog Postings
- 5% Essay 0
- 15% Essay 1
- 20% Essay 2
- 40% Final Essay
UNIT 1: SHIP ME WEST AND ACROSS THE SEAS
Week 1: Killing Crusoe
KEY QUESTIONS: What is a travel narrative? What is the impact of the autobiographical lens?
- Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner (Excerpt)
- Homer: The Odyssey (Excerpt) (Optional)
- Stuart Hall: Cultural Identity and Diaspora
- Faith Suzanne Harden: Martial Masculinities: Gender, Genre, And The Self In Seventeenth-Century Spanish Soldiers' Autobiographies
- Mary Louise Pratt: Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (Optional)
Week 2: The Road To Suffering
KEY QUESTION: What did it mean for Americans to travel after the Mayflower?
- Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Selections)
- John Evely: Rus-Urban Imaginings: Literature Of The American Park Movement And Representations Of Social Space In The Mid-Nineteenth Century
- Steven Cohan & Ina Rae Hark: "Introduction" (In "The Road Movie Book")
- Steven Cohan: "Almost Like Being At Home" (In "The Road Movie Book")
ESSAY 0 DUE FRIDAY AT 5 PM
Week 3 & 4: Born To Be Wild OR On The Road, On The Run
KEY QUESTIONS: What was the impact of "Easy Rider" and "On The Road" on American road stories?
- Jack Kerouac: On The Road
- Roger Bill: Traveller or tourist? Jack Kerouac and the Commodification of Culture
- David Shumway: Rock 'n' Roll Sound Tracks and the Production of Nostalgia
- Barbara Klinger: "The Road To Dystopia" (In "The Road Movie Book")
- Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Optional)
Week 5: Wartime Proceedings
KEY QUESTIONS: Do road stories have to just be about one person in one country? Is a military movie different than a road movie?
- Jeffrey Childs: "Apocalypse Now, Vietnam and the Rhetoric of Influence"
ESSAY 1 DUE FRIDAY AT 5 PM
UNIT 2: "GO" AND "ESCAPE" MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS
Week 6 & 7: Cultural Appropriation OR This Land Isn't Your Land
KEY QUESTIONS: How did minorities, LGBTQ+, and women "take back" the road movie in the 1990s? Did it affect the structures of the road movie, or just the characters?
- bell hooks: Eating The Other
- Marita Sturken: Thelma & Louise (Selections)
- Ina Rae Hark: "Fear Of Flying" (In "The Road Movie Book")
- Robert Lang: "My Own Private Idaho And The New Queer Road Movies" (In "The Road Movie Book")
Week 8: Run, If You Can
KEY QUESTIONS: What if you can't run? In the case that flight is rendered impossible by the supernatural, what do characters do? Is there such a thing as a recursive road movie?
- Alice Rayner: "Ghosts Onscreen: The Drama Of Misrecognition"
Week 9: Where Do You Go When "Home" Doesn't Exist?
KEY QUESTIONS: By now we know home and the road are intimately related. What happens when there is no home place, no home country, or no safe place? Has that already been the case?
- Stuart C. Aitken & Christopher Lee Lukinbeal: "Disassociated Masculinities And Geographies Of The Road" (In "The Road Movie Book")
- Edward Said: Reflections on Exile
- Eric Hobsbawn: Exile
ESSAY 2 DUE FRIDAY AT 5 PM
UNIT 3: STRETCHING THE TRAVEL
Week 10: In The Face Of Apocalypse
MEETINGS FOR FINAL PROJECT THIS WEEK
KEY QUESTIONS: Why would having a home matter after the rapture? Why do so many travelers try to get to some specific place in the aftermath?
- Delia Falconer: "'We Don't Need To Know The Way Home'" (In "The Road Movie Book")
- Come prepared to your meeting with three sources you may use for your final
Week 11: The Plight Of Poor Mumblecore OR Hell Comes To Hipsterville
KEY QUESTIONS: Can you be traveling if you still go home to the same place every night? Can you be lost if you have a destination in mind?
- Continue reading for your final project
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Pray Love (Excerpts)
Week 12 & 13: Off The Silver Screen
KEY QUESTIONS: What interests you about travel narratives? Is there anything else we should discuss?
- Continue reading for your final project
- Xin Lu
- Other media as it arises
FINAL ESSAY DUE WEDNESDAY OF FINALS WEEK AT 5 PM