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Unit information: Travellers' Tales in 2018/19

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Unit name Travellers' Tales
Unit code ENGL20024
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Tamsin Badcoe
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit we will move between works of imaginative literature, non-fiction, and cartography, in order to consider how the late medieval and early modern geographical imagination engages with both the global and the local. Recent scholarship has taken great interest in how space and movement is represented and conceptualised in literature, and the writing of the late medieval and early modern periods offers a rich terrain to explore. From the far-ranging questing of medieval romance and early accounts of the Holy Land, to reports of precarious colonies established in Ireland and the New World, and later satires, this unit explores the imaginative travails of texts and images which have travel and encounter at the heart of their structure. We will look at a mixture of travellers’ tales as they appear in prose, poetry, and drama, and consider how literary engagements with geography shape our ideas about home, exile, discovery, and the wider world.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of early English travel writing and its relation to medieval and early modern geographical thought; (2) in-depth understanding of the theoretical contexts that inform thinking about space and place in textual and cartographical representations; (3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature; (4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument; (5) strengthened skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of 2000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

Both summative essays assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Key primary texts will be:

  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (any edition)
  • The Book of John Mandeville, ed. Tamarah Kohanski and C. David Benson (TEAMS)
  • Anthony Parr, ed., Three Renaissance Travel Plays (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999)
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (any edition)

Secondary Reading:

  • Carl Thompson, Travel Writing (London: Routledge, 2011)
  • Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (Texas: Trinity University Press, 2004)