21L.007 | Fall 2008 | Undergraduate

World Literatures: Travel Writing


This page presents a table of required reading assignments for each class session, followed by a list of background readings and supporting materials.

Part I. Introduction

Time, space, event

Stern, J. “The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment.” The New Yorker, April 24, 2006.

Dunn, Oliver, and James E. Kelley. The Diario of Christopher Columbus’s First Voyage to America, 1492-1493. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780806123844. [Preview in Google Books.]


Tourists, travellers, explorers

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York, NY: Library of America, 2000. ISBN: 9780374527075. [Preview in Google Books.]

Conrad, J. “Geography and Some Explorers.” In The Heart of Darkness. New York, NY: Forgotten Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781606209790. [Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]

Levi- Strauss, C. Tristes Tropiques. Translated by John Weightman and Doreen Weightman. New York, NY: Penguin, 1992, chapters 1-4 (selections). ISBN: 9780140165623. [Download a different translation, by John Russell, from Internet Archive]

Part II. Crossing North America

Heat-Moon, William Least. Blue Highways: A Journey into America. Boston, MA: Back Bay Books, 1999, chapters 1, 2 (sections 1-6 and 15-18); Afterword. ISBN: 9780316353298.

Lewis and Clark Expedition Route in Google Earth

Class Discussion: “Blue Highways” (PDF)

4 Least Heat-Moon, chapter 3 (sections 1-14), chapter 4 (sections 1, 7-14), chapter 5 (sections 3-5, 11-12), chapter 6 (sections 1-10), chapter 7 (sections 2-3, 6-11).

Least Heat-Moon, chapter 8 (sections 6-12), chapter 9 (sections 5, 9-11), chapter 10 (sections 1-3); Afterword

6 Cabeza de Vaca, A. N. Naufragios. 1542. [aka La Relación]
Naufragios is another title frequently given to Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación or Account. Chapters 1-18 (pp. 3-63).
7 Cabeza de Vaca, chapters 19-37, pp. 64-127.
8 The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 1804.
Jefferson’s instructions (xxvii-xxxiii), July 27-August 26, 1804; September 23-October 4, 1804; October 8-21, 1804; October 26-November 4, 1804.
9 The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: 1805.
April 7-May 9, 1805; June 13-16, 1805; August 8-17, 1805.
10 The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: 1805-1806.
September 15-25, 1805; October 31-Nov. 7, 1805; April 18-23, 1806; September 6-26, 1806.
Part III. Africa and The Atlantic World
11 Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself. Coffeetown Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781603810197. [Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]
12 Equiano (cont.)
13 Stanley, H. M. How I Found Livingstone; Travels, Adventures, and Discoveres in Central Africa, Including an Account of Four Months’ Residence with Dr. Livingstone. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2007, chapters 1-3. ISBN: 9781426411663. [Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]
14 Stanley, chapter 7 (138-63), chapter 10 (236-47, 260-70), chapter 11 (301-38).
15 Stanley, chapter 12 (339-58), chapter 14 (430-77), chapter 15 (478-99).

Phillips, Caryl. “Atlantic Crossing,” and “Leaving Home.” In The Atlantic Sound. New York, NY: Knopf, 2000, pp. 1-93. ISBN: 9780375401107.

Reading notes on The Atlantic Sound (PDF)


Phillips, “Homeward Bound,” “Home,” “Exodus.” pp. 94-221.

Necessary journeys

18 Workshop: revising your essays
Part IV. Polar regions

Film: Atanarjuat

Introduction to key events and characters in “Atanarjuat”. (PDF)



Cherry-Gerrard, Apsley. “Introduction.” Chapters 6-7 in The Worst Journey in the World. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1997. ISBN: 9780786704378. [Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]

Reading notes for Introduction (PDF)

Reading notes for chapters 6-7 (PDF)

21 Cherry-Garrard, chapters 12-17 (PDF)
22 Cherry-Garrard, chapters 12-17 (see handout under “Polar Regions” for selections and context) (PDF)
23 Worsley, Frank Arthur. Endurance. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000, pp. 1-34; read through the text under “The Expedition.” ISBN: 9780393319941. [Preview a portion of this at Kodak.]

Worsley, Endurance, pp. 145-64.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Wasteland. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000. ISBN: 9780393974997.
[Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]
[Download an Audio version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]

Reading notes for The Wasteland (PDF)

Part V. Remaining in place
25 Erdrich, L. Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of my Ancestors. New York, NY: Random House Inc., 2006, pp. 1-72. ISBN: 9780792253730.
26 Erdrich, pp. 72-141.

Background Readings and Supporting Materials

Part I. Introduction

Jamaica Kincaid’s Reading at MIT, April 2007

(Claude Levi-Strauss and Unesco: An account of the anthropologist’s contributions to this global organization: in particular, an evolving debate over the relations between inequality, race, development, and cultural diversity.)

Part II. Crossing North America

Legends of America

Civil rights marches of 1965
(National Park Service Web site for the National Historic Trail commemorating the civil rights marches of 1965.)

National Park Service
(National Park Service site: tall-grass prairie, sacred/protected pipestone quarries.)

Nintendo® and New World Travel Writing
(Article by Henry Jenkins and Mary Fuller on the structural kinship between video games and travel narratives.)

Policy questions about monuments
(Sanford Levinson, a professor of constitutional law, discusses the policy questions about monuments reflecting political views no longer widely accepted; his case in point is a New Orleans monument to a white supremacist coup.)

Part III. Africa and The Atlantic World

Passages from Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers (PDF)

HistoryWorld: History of Sub-Saharan Africa
(Background for the reading in Stanley, from a British site called “HistoryWorld”; on Livingstone specifically, Stanley’s prefatory “Memoir” is probably more informative both about the facts and the “meaning” of Livingstone’s career.)

Part IV. Polar Regions

Atanarjuat action figures
(From the archives of Nunatsiaq News.)

Isuma Independent Inuit films
(Web site for the production company behind “Atanarjuat.”)

Facts about Nunavut
(“Atanarjuat” was produced in the Canadian territory of Nunavut by an Inuit film production company with Inuit actors and crew. This government website has basic facts on the territory, and dates for the land-claims suit that created it.)

Polar Images
(SPRI Picture Gallery, useful for images relating to Scott and Shackleton as well as for the Arctic.)

Virtual Shackleton
(The Scott Polar Research Institute’s online archive.)

Endurance photographs and background
(Kodak sponsored the exhibit on which this site is based; the text has interesting things to say about the visual record of this expedition in particular.)

Koehn, Nancy. “Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance.” Harvard Business School 9-803-127 (2003): 1-41.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Exams with Solutions