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Module LXF-3111:
French Travel

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Jonathan Ervine

Overall aims and purpose

Travel is a feature of our everyday lives and as we move faster and farther, so the world seems to shrink. More than ever it is mobility that informs our comprehension of the world. In this module students will have the opportunity to study a range of French travel narratives across a spectrum of geographical locations and historical periods—from Renaissance apologies of Cannibalism to the fast lanes of a Los Angeles super highway. Engaging with a range of travel-types— from explorers and ethnographers to tourists and nomads—students will discover how travel and travel writing provide a window to understanding French cultural values, identities and politics. The module considers what we mean by ‘travel’, the different forms travel might take and the different approaches which travellers adopt when trying to make sense of themselves in/and ‘elsewhere’. Central to the module’s critical impetus will be the shifting relationship between the poetics (genre and form) and cultural politics at stake in different forms of travel practice. Key areas for investigation include the relationship between travel writing and nationalisms; how travel writing informs global networks of modern capitalism; the role played by travel writing in establishing structures of cultural hierarchy and resistance; how travel writing constructs as well as calls into question gendered subjects and subjectivities; and, finally, the exchanges between travel writing and other genres and media such as fiction, film and photography.

Course content

This module examines changing conceptions and practices of travel and engages students in analysis of some of the core tropes in approaches to travel and travel writing. Students will engage with the travel writing of a range of authors from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and with a variety of geographical locations in order to trace developments in the epistemologies and ontologies of travel. The course will begin by asking what we mean by the term ‘travel’, exploring critical thinking around the differences between, for example, tourism and migration. The module’s introductory phase will demonstrate the importance of travel in constructing categories of knowledge and narratives of identity before moving, in the weeks that follow, to look at issues of interpretation examining, through close reading, how travellers frame their encounter with otherness, and how the travel encounter might become a means of disrupting such discursive frameworks. Key areas for investigation include the role played by travel writing in establishing structures of cultural hierarchy and resistance; the relationship between travel writing and various kinds of nationalisms; how travel writing informs global networks of modern capitalism; how travel writing constructs as well as calls into question gendered subjects and subjectivities; and, finally, the traffic between travel writing and other genres and media such as fiction, film and photography.

Key texts A set of six core texts is drawn from the following authors’ work: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Gide, Georges Perec, Roland Barthes, Michel Butor, Jean Baudrillard, Marc Augé and Michel de Certeau. Students are provided with copies of the relevant extracts / articles as part of a module reading dossier. See list of extracts / articles mentioned in module documentation printed from the Gazette.

Main secondary reading:

Chris Bongie, Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism, and the Fin de Siècle (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991) Michel de Certeau ([1980] 1990) L’Invention du quotidien, vol. 1: Arts de faire (Paris : Folio, 1980) [HN8 .C43 1990 v.1] Umberto Eco, Faith in Fakes: Travels in hyperreality (London: Minerva, 1995) Charles Forsdick, Ludmilla Kostova and Corinne Fowler (eds) Travel Writing and Ethics: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 2012) Charles Forsdick, Travel in Twentieth-Century French and Francophone Cultures: The Persistence of Diversity (Oxford: OUP, 2005) Charles Forsdick and David Murphy (eds), Francophone Postcolonial Studies: A Critical Introduction (London: Arnold, 2003) Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (Cambridge: Polity, 1988) Peter Holland and Graham Huggan, Tourists with Typewriters: critical reflections on contemporary travel writing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998 Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, [1992] 2008) [D34.L29 P73 2008] Edward W. Said, Orientalism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995) Michael Sheringham, Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present (Oxford: OUP, 2009) Guillaume Thouroude, ‘Towards generic autonomy: the récit de voyage as mode, genre and form’, Studies in Travel Writing, 13:4 (2009), 381-390 C.W. Thompson, French Romantic Travel Writing: Chateaubriand to Nerval (Oxford: OUP, 2012)

Assessment Criteria


C- - B+: Students attaining higher grades will not only have understood the content of the works studied, but will also have been able to interpret these works through the application of theoretical models. They will have produced well-structured and coherently argued essays and presentations, and will also have drawn attention to links between travel writing and narratives of identity.


A- - A*: Students attaining the highest grades will have produced innovative and individual interpretations of the works studied, while synthesizing their analysis with a demonstrable grasp of the theoretical and interpretive strands applying to travel writing. They will have been able to demonstrate excellent referencing skills and will display an aptitude for critically engaging with and evaluating both the core texts and secondary reading so as to begin to question theoretical limits.


D- - D+: In order to merit the award of credit, students will have demonstrated a basic comprehension and knowledge of the works studied and will be able to situate a work in its historical context.

Learning outcomes

  1. Utilize these theories as analytical tools for understanding the set texts and be capable of producing structured and coherent arguments in oral presentations and written assignments.

  2. Engage in close, critical readings of a range of texts, while demonstrating an awareness of the historical and cultural contexts in which those texts were produced.

  3. Evaluate the links between travel writing and the formation discourses of self and ‘Other’.

  4. Achieve an understanding of important interpretive and theoretical concerns raised in relation to travel writing from within the fields of Postcolonial Studies and Colonial Discourse Analysis, Cultural Materialism/Studies and contemporary Travel Studies.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL BLOG journal entry

TO BE DONE IN ADVANCE OF THE RELEVANT SEMINARS. These journal entries (150–200 words per entry) will take the form of a critical response to the text that will be discussed in the weekly seminars.


An oral presentation on one of the texts and dealing with a topic that you will explore further in your assessed essay. The presentation will last no more than 8 minutes and will take place in week 12.

ESSAY essay

An essay of 2500 words on one question listed in the ‘Essay Questions’ section of this module handbook. This essay will demonstrate in-depth knowledge of one or more of the primary texts studied in answering the question chosen as well as showing evidence of further reading and research beyond the scope of the seminar discussion on the particular theme.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


1 x 2hr lecture/seminar session per week for 11 weeks

Private study

This module is based around a series of seminar discussions. Each week the students will convene for a two-hour session for which they will have prepared a text. Students are provided with a module handbook and reading pack containing all set reading. The handbook contains a weekly breakdown of the seminars, with questions to accompany each set text. The seminars are intended to be a lively discussion fora, where students can raise questions, queries, discuss their individual interpretations of the texts, and where I as lecturer can guide their thought and expression of core ideas.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: