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Gender in Western Travel Literature: Gendered Constructions of Other Cultures in Western Travel Literature

Course Number
GSWS 531 640
Course Code
Course Key
Primary Program
Course Note
Online Course Fee: $150 (in addition to course tuition and fees)
Course Description
Descriptions of peoples from foreign lands and faraway places have captured the imaginations of Europeans for centuries.  Pilgrims and merchants, explorers and conquistadores, Victorians taking their Grand Tour and 21st-century travelers have preserved their observations, both in written form, in ethnographies and diaries, novels and travel narratives, and in visual form, in maps, illuminated manuscripts, engravings, and photographs.  Through these media, these travelers have not simply captured their memories, but have also helped to shape Western representations of the people they encountered. In the process, these travelers often have justified Western political, economic, cultural, and social dominance, although instead some travelers have critiqued the West. And in all these depictions, gender and sexuality have played central roles in the creation of these identities and relationships.  In this online course, we will explore this topic by studying a variety of primary and secondary sources focusing on medieval Ireland and Wales; English, Spanish, and Portuguese texts representing the New World and indigenous Americans; orientalism through the lens of imperial representations of the Middle East, India, and Africa; and 20th- and 21st-century representations of a globalized world, focusing on political, economic and cultural tensions between the West and other regions of the world. Primary texts will include travel diaries and narratives, ethnographies and novels, as well as visual images. We will also examine how scholars from fields including anthropology, art history, cultural studies, history, and literary studies have analyzed these works, with attention to theories on colonialism and post-colonialism, gendered and queer readings, orientalism and othering, and globalization. Finally, we will also look at how some of the people who were described by the Western writers described Westerners themselves. Assignments will include weekly blogs in response to readings, primary source threaded discussions, live discussions every week in our online classroom, and the completion of a final essay and a final in-class presentation.