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Unit information: Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century in 2016/17

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Unit name Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century
Unit code FREN20058
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Marianne Ailes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Travel writing is a hybrid genre that adopts a number of literary forms: field journals, memoirs, guidebooks, carnet de voyage, exploration narratives, itineraries, nature writing, and diaries. Imperial expansion, advances in transport and technology, and the development of mass tourism in the nineteenth century facilitated access to foreign lands and made possible encounters with other peoples and other cultures. And an increasingly literate public meant a corresponding rise in demand for accounts of travel in France. This unit will introduce students to a varied selection of nineteenth-century French literary travelogues, including George Sand’s journey to the island of Mallorca; the first photographic travel journal (produced by Maxime du Camp following his trip to Egypt in 1849–50); Eugène Fromentin’s Algerian narrative; and, Maupassant’s travel writings. The works studied enable reflections on encounters between Self and Other, women travellers, and the writing of landscape.

Examples of topics to be discussed include Orientalism, colonialism, alterity and identity, geographical imaginations, and the tourist gaze.

The unit aims to:

  • Examine the significance of travel writing as a literary form
  • Develop analytical skills needed to produce close-readings of different genres and use of literary language
  • Introduce students to a range of travel writing produced by nineteenth-century French writers

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable, and practicable skills appropriate to second year level. These include:

  1. Detailed knowledge of, and ability to discuss at an appropriate level of complexity, Orientalism and colonialism in relation to nineteenth-century French travel writing and encounters with the Other
  2. Skills in critical reading and essay-writing
  3. A more advanced understanding of the French language, achieved by engaging in detailed analysis of material in French and by analysing its stylistic features
  1. Ability to produce coherent, independent arguments that are well-referenced and well-structured in both essay and exam conditions and as appropriate to level H

Teaching details

One weekly lecture and one weekly seminar

Assessment Details

Assessed essay of 2000 words (33%) and a 2 hour exam (67%) Testing ILO’s 1-4

Reading and References

Primary Reading:

  • Georges Sand, Un hiver à Majorque (Paris: Le Livre de Poche; Édition: Nouvelle, 2004 [1842])
  • Gustave Flaubert, Voyage en Égypte, ed. by Pierre-Marc de Biasi (Paris: Grasset, 1991 [184950])
  • Eugène Fromentin, Un été dans le Sahara, ed. by Anne-Marie Christin (Paris: Flammarion, coll. ‘Champs Arts’, 2009 [1857])
  • Guy de Maupassant, Sur l’eau, préface de Jacques Dupont (Paris: Folio, 1993 [1888]), Au soleil suivi de La Vie errante et autres voyages (Paris: Gallimard, 2015)

Secondary / Introductory Reading:

  • Guentner, Wendelin, ‘Nineteenth-Century Travel Writing’, in The Cambridge History of French Literature, ed. by William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond, and Emma Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 504–21
  • Hulme, Peter and Tim Youngs, The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • Pratt, Mary Louise, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York: Routledge, 1992)
  • Said, Edward, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Penguin, 1991)
  • Thompson, C. W., French Romantic Travel Writing: Chateaubriand to Nerval (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • —(ed.), The Routledge Companion to Travel Writing (London: Routledge, 2016)
  • Topping, Margaret (ed.), Western Voyages Eastern Visions: French Writing and Painting of the Orient (Bern: Peter Lang, 2004)
  • Youngs, Tim (ed.), Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century: Filling in the Blank Spaces (London: Anthem Press, 2006)