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CW906 Crossing Borders

Convenor and Tutor: Professor Michael Hulse

In this course, we spend five sessions reading texts that cross borders of a linguistic and/or cultural nature, and follow each session with a workshop devoted to original texts written by the course members out of the encounter with these border crossings.

Weeks 1 and 2  

In the first session we read W. G. Sebald’s account of Conrad’s response to the Congo, in Chapter V of The Rings of Saturn. A familiarity with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness will be an advantage.

Weeks 3 and 4

This session looks at encounters with the Ottoman Empire, the Near East and India in travel writings by Alexander Kinglake (from Eothen), Robert Byron (from The Road to Oxiana) and J. R. Ackerley (from Hindoo Holiday). Extracts from these texts will be made available in photocopy.

Weeks 5 and 6

In this session we focus on the relationship between travel across and between historical and geographical frames, using Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land, a travelogue-cum-memoir set in Egypt.

Weeks 7 and 8

Turning to that most difficult of borders to cross, the border that separates us from the past, we read extracts from the first volume of Elias Canetti’s autobiography, The Tongue Set Free. Extracts will be made available in photocopy.

Weeks 9 and 10

In our final session we return to W. G. Sebald, and read one of his great narratives concerning the unknowability of the past: the fourth section, ‘Max Ferber’, of The Emigrants.


As indicated above.


The submission must consist of the following:

a portfolio of narrative fiction or non-fiction plus a critical commentary on the cultural and creative processes involved in the portfolio (further details will be handed out during seminars).


S. H. Duncan, Writes of Passage: Reading Travel Writing, 1999
Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, 2000
Paul Fussell, Abroad, 1980
Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, 2002
Mary Louis Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 1992
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 1991
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, 1993
Eliot Weinberger, Karmic Traces, 2000