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FRE4020 : Writing Elsewhere: Cultures of Travel in French

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Gillian Jein
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Travelling is something we all do, on different scales, and in different ways. Travel writing is one of the most socially important of all forms of literature, and writing 'elsewhere' very often reveals how we define ourselves and how we identify others. This module equips students to analyse these definitions and modes of othering, by exposing them to a variety of travel accounts written in French by an array of writers from around the world.

The module aims:
1. to engage students in critical reflection on what is means to travel, and what is at stake in different forms of travel writing across a range of geographical locations and time periods.
2. to provide students with the analytical skills to examine the ethics, politics and aesthetics at work in travel and travel writing.
3. to give students the opportunity to explore themes related to contemporary global challenges, namely:
a)the links between travel, writing and power, and the construction of knowledges about elsewhere;
b)the construction of difference and travel writing's centrality in modes of othering and operations of sense around 'us' and 'them', 'here' and 'there', 'near' and 'far';
c)understandings of belonging and displacement, and travel writing as a source for understanding processes of rooting, uprooting, migration and settlement;
d)travel writing's role in the circulation of ideas and concerns about nature, environmental destruction and idigenous knowledges;
e)travel writers' accounts of technology in place-making in the 20th and 21st centuries, and its role in enabling and controlling mobility.
4. to enrich students' linguistic capacity in French through reading and assessments, as well as close critical analysis.

Outline Of Syllabus

Travelling is something we all do, on different scales, and in different ways. Given the shared nature of movement, travel writing is one of the most socially important of all forms of literature, and writing 'elsewhere' very often reveals how we define ourselves and how we identify others. In this module, you will explore travel writing by writers from the French-speaking world and whose work ranges across diverse geographical locations and different historical periods.

In this course, we place the emphasis on texts that narrate real rather than imagined journeys, and on examining not only *what* travel writers see, but *how* they see, or the frames through which they make the world meaningful. Among the questions guiding our explorations are: What is the difference between a tourist and a colonialist, or an explorer and an ethnographer for instance? And what do their different vantage points on elsewhere tell us about the home culture?; By what means does a tourist construct their vision of 'abroad'?; What motivates the extreme explorer? Why and how does the encounter with alternative worldviews unsettle western definitions of rational and irrational, sane and insane?; What can travel writing tell us about attitudes to other cultures, other lands, and other beings? How does it reveal changes in ethical and aesthetic perspectives on the world, and the various modes of othering at stake across time and space?

Course Content:
The opening sessions of the module invite students to consider critically what is meant by 'travel', and to explore travel writing's genre bending tendencies. We will pay attention to the heterogeneity of this kind of writing and think about ways (methodologies) to engage with it. The following weeks will consist of paired sessions covering certain essential themes. These may include the relationship between travel writing and imperialism; travel writing and nature; travel, knowledge, and power; othering and otherness; exoticism and endoticism; placemaking and memory; and the traffic between travel writing and other media such as fiction, film and photography.
Each session will see students engage with extracts from a specific travel text. Lectures will provide historical context to the text, author, and historical situation, and introduce students to a variety of theoretical frameworks so as to enable their development of critical insight. Seminars will be student-centred and focus on enabling students to discuss their ideas and share their insights in peer-to-peer exercises in class. This discussion will be facilitated with questions and secondary sources. In addition to discussion, seminar sessions will also involve students exploring ethnographic techniques such as peer-to-peer interviews, walk-based research, photographic storytelling, and journal writing.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture51:005:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion152:0030:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading112:0022:00Independent study with secondary source materials related to the lecture topic
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities103:0030:00Weekly guided activities for engagement with primary source texts.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00Seminars for small group discussion and activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Essay Writing Workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00Dérive based activity in Newcastle City Centre
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Essay writing and assessment support.
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity35:0015:00Students will organise a group presentation based on their reflections and findings around the dérive activity.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study701:0070:00Free-reading on topics and independent research.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk11:001:00Introductory Session in Week 1
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The Module’s primary corpus is to meet all Knowledge Outcomes by enabling students to engage with travel writing that challenges generic categories and which emerges from a number of critical fields - including anthropology, autobiography, politics, poetry, cultural theory. Students will read extracts each week from one travel writer.

Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities:
1) Module talk with orient students and facilitate their awareness of the need for independent learning, self-reflection and introduce them to the module themes and objectives. (KO1)
2) Lecture Materials: Lectures will provide students with contextual information in order to support their independent reading for the themed session. (KO1, KO2, KO6)
3) Weekly 2-hour seminars will provide students with opportunity to discuss their guided research and work with peers to develop their critical thinking and ideas. (KO1-7, IS1-6)
4) Fieldwork: Students will be guided in the use of the dérive to explore the city centre of Newcastle. Working in small groups, they will choose a theme from the course and focus on this aspect as they walk through the city. As a group they will then reflect on this method, and design a presentation based on their experience. This activity is designed to put into practice certain key conceptual tropes around travel and travel writing. (KO2, KO3, IS1, IS2, IS4)
5) Workshops: These will enable students to raise questions and gain skills in relation to essay planning and writing. (KO3, KO5, IS1–5)

Structured Research & Reading Activities:
Students read 1-2 article-length primary materials weekly. Accompanied by guided questions to facilitate student engagement and encourage close reading. Writing: To ensure reading is engaged, students write 200-word response to set material. Either to answer guiding questions or link text from one week to a text from another. Student responses will submitted online via CANVAS in advance of scheduled small group session. ML provides individual feedback and draws on responses to develop student discussion in small group scheduled sessions. (KO1-7, IS3-6)

Student-led Group Activity:
Students will work together in small groups to present their reflections and findings based on the dérive. (IS3, IS4, IS6) (KO1, KO2, LLO3, KO5, KO7)

Guided Independent Study: Students' independent learning will be encouraged through weekly writing tasks, and supported through open questions, a module workbook and bibliographical materials. Students will have the opportunity to share their out-of-class findings with the cohort each week and to integrate their independent research into their assessments. (IS1, IS3, IS4, IS5, IS6) (KO1-7)

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M80A 3000-word essay in English responding to one of a set of questions provided.
Oral Presentation2M20A group oral presentation based on the fieldwork activities. Students will be assessed individually. 20 minutes
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Reflective log2M2 entries. Students will have the opportunity to write two critical reflections on readings. (300 words each = 600 words total)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessed components of this module are designed to achieve the knowledge and skills outcomes.

The set essay will test students' level in relation to all Knowledge Outcomes. This essay will be written in response to one of a number of open questions. In the essay workshop, students will be encouraged to appropriate a question and consider which primary sources they will use to address it. The essay will require students to undertake close analysis of the primary source, while framing this analysis in relation to one or more critical approaches and situating the text historically.

The oral presentation is designed to support students in the pre-writing and research phase of the essay assignment. They will present their analysis of the fieldwork as a group, and discuss how they will address their chosen essay topic individually

Formative assessment is designed to support students' success in the summative assignments. The reflective log is designed to facilitate progression in the students' analytical capacity. It will require students to engage closely with a set text and to read the text in correspondence with the background provided by the lecture, and other primary sources. Feedback and class discussion will frame this exercise and therefore enhance students' capacity for engagement with feedback, while building confidence in linguistic comprehension, reading and writing skills. One of the reflective exercises will include writing up field notes from the dérive activity.

Reading Lists