English 143N

Prose Nonfiction: Traveling, Thinking, Writing

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2012 Giscombe, Cecil S.
Giscombe, Cecil
TTh 2-3:30 35 Evans


Book List: Students should come to class before buying books. The list will likely include some of the following: Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns (translated by Cid Corman); Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Tete-Michel Kpomassie’s An African in Greenland; Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing; Robert Michael Pyle’s Where Bigfoot Walks. We’ll also read excerpts from Travel Writing: 1700-1830 (Ian Duncan and Elizabeth Bohls); Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African-American Travel Writing (Farrah Griffin and Cheryl Fish); and items from the popular press.

Course Description: Much of American literature has had to do with a sense of motion. Note the journeys, e.g., in the best known texts of Melville and Twain. But note also that Harlemite Langston Hughes’ autobiography, The Big Sea, begins on a boat and details his adventures in Europe and Africa; Canadian writer Gladys Hindmarch takes on Melville with her Watery Part of the World and Zora Neale Hurston travels to Haiti in Tell My Horse and through the American south in Mules and Men. 

The point of this course is multiple and full of inquiry.

familiar question, “Is this trip necessary?”, is joined to “What makes this trip important enough to 

Another field is the role of Americans and/ or Westerners as travelers in the world. (I’d note that the world is both within and beyond our national boundaries.) What things are we heir to? What are our responsibilities and blindnesses? What’s the relation between the imperial West and our current situation? The point in this—and any writing—is to write consciously and to be mindful of the political import of our writing. 

A third field is the defining of the relation between travel and place (and imagination).

Workshop.  Discussions.  Reading.  Writing assignments.  Field trips.  The writing vehicle will be, for the greatest part, the personal essay (with some forays outward into hybrid prose/ poetry forms).

To be considered for admission to this class, please submit 5-10 photocopied pages of your creative nonfiction, along with an application form, to Cecil Giscombe's mailbox in 322 Wheeler, BY 4:00 p.m., TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, AT THE LATEST.

Be sure to read the paragraph concerning creative writing courses on page 1 of this Announcement of Classes for further information regarding enrollment in such courses!

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