American Literature 1776-1914

Course code:
Period 1
Language of tuition:
Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
dr. B. Boter
dr. B. Boter
dr. B. Boter
Teaching method(s):
Lecture, Seminar,

Course objective

• Students become acquainted with some of the canonical texts from the
long 19th century (British and American), and are able to relate them to
travel narratives written by the same authors.
• Students become familiar with the genre of (British and American)
travel writing and the developments of the genre between the late 18th
and early 20th century.
• Students understand how travel writing is implicated in the processes
of identity formation (both collective and individual) and intercultural
• Students are able to apply theoretical notions such as
transnationalism, national culture, space and place, and gender to
individual texts from the historical period.
• Students know how to start up and conduct a small academic research
project for their final essay.
• Students are able to freely express their ideas in both written work
and informal, oral presentations.

Course content

This course introduces students to American (and some British)
literature written between the end of the 18th century and the beginning
of the 20th century. As it is impossible to cover all Anglo-American
writing of the “long 19th century” in the course of seven weeks, we will
focus on one specific genre: travel writing. This literary genre, which
has been popular for centuries, has been much overlooked by academics
and those constituting the British and American literary canons. The new
critical paradigms of “transnationalism” and “globalization,” however,
necessitate a new and serious look at these texts. We will read travel
writings by authors such as Charles Dickens, Henry James and Mark Twain
in combination with canonized texts by these same authors. This will
allow us to compare and contextualize.

In addition, we will read and discuss some narratives written by lesser
known and more marginal authors, as well as a few critical essays on
travel writing. The level of English in this course is high. You will
have to be able to read late 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century texts.

Critical issues addressed:
Authorship, autobiography, authenticity
Canonization, literary codes and conventions, genre
Literary styles such as irony
Global citizenship, transnationalism
Identity, global and national culture
Encounter, intercultural exchange, othering
Nature writing, travel and space, the sublime

Form of tuition

Students are expected to prepare the assigned texts before coming to
class, to bring the texts to class (hard copy or digitized), and to
discuss them with their fellow students and instructor. They should
upload written assignments before the deadlines stated in the course
syllabus. The written assignments and exam test the students’ insights
into the most prominent themes discussed during class.

Type of assessment

Assessment: 20% active participation in plenary discussions and in-class
group work. Students are allowed to miss a total of two sessions. Once
the student has missed three classes she or he will automatically be
excluded from Canvas and from the course, and they will not receive

40%: written assignments (20% Canvas posts; 20% final essay).

40%: exam.

Students will only receive credits for the course if
1. they have in time submitted all written assignments, so also the
Canvas posts
2. the grade for their final essay and/or submitted exam is a 5 or
higher. If the grade for your final essay is lower than 5.0 you must do
the resit. If you have a grade of 5.0 or 5.5 you may do the resit, but
you can also compensate the grade for your essay with grades for other
assignments. Please note that the Faculty allows resits for all exams,
also those graded 5.5 and higher. The grade for the resit counts. NB If
you have not submitted all Canvas posts in time, you will not be
eligible to do the exam.

Course reading

We will use a course textbook such as the one written by Carl Thompson,
Travel Writing (Routledge 2011). In addition, we will read and discuss
primary texts (travel writing).

© Copyright VU University Amsterdam
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