This course is applicable to the English major's American Cultures in Global Contexts specialization and Literature & Culture of Information specialization.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” (Jack Kerouac)
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
"Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive." (Robert M. Pirsig)
"There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage." (Mark Twain)
What does it mean to “travel for travel’s sake”? How (and why) does one live life “on the road”? Why is it better to travel than to arrive? How do our own travel experiences change when we shift our focus to the journey rather than the destination? And what difference does it make if we take the train, drive the scenic route, or take a redeye flight?
Exploring traditional travel narratives, novels, films, and contemporary travel blogs, this course will investigate Judith Adler’s claim that travel is “performed art” by exploring the experiential and narrative possibilities of different transportation technologies. We will primarily focus on travel by foot, train, automobile, and airplane. As the writers we encounter in this course suggest, our transportation choices are far more important than our destinations: from Henry David Thoreau’s holy saunterings, to Jack Kerouac’s cross-country road trip, to Paul Theroux’s “railway bazaars,” to Pico Iyer’s musings on air travel and jet lag, these travelers are adept at treating movement as an art form, rather than a means to an end. In this course we will examine why different travelers choose different modes of travel – and why it matters. Through our examination of road stories in print and on film we will attempt to uncover a sometimes forgotten art of travel (as well as the art of travel writing).
Works may include (in excerpt or full length form): Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”; Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust; Jack Kerouac, On the Road; Pico Iyer, Global Soul; Walter Kirn, Up in the Air; Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel; Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express; Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley; William Least-Heat Moon, Blue Highways. Films may include Two Lane Blacktop, The Motorcycle Diaries, Easy Rider, Festival Express, On the Road, Into the Wild, Up in the Air.