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FREN3034 Travel Writing, Cultural Encounter, Identity in Post-War France

Module Overview

Based on mixed genre non-fiction narratives of travel, this course moves broadly chronologically, in order to ask what we mean by ‘travel’, and how the discursive relation of ‘self and other’ has been constructed across time and through a range of complex cultural interrelations in modern French travel writing . Having discussed preconceptions of ‘travel writing’ via a deconstruction of the discourse of mainstream guidebooks, and their cultural positioning, by way of introduction, we will then focus on the ‘classical scene’ of ethnographic encounter in ‘literary’ anthropology. We will then move on to two accounts produced immediately after the Second World War, in order to engage with three key theoretical concepts of cultural encounter - authenticity, the ‘decline’ of cultural diversity, and alienation. We then move on to work which ‘exoticises the future’, written within the framework of cultural semiotics in the 1970s, and postmodernism in the 1980s. In the next segment, ‘The Tourist Gaze’, we will look at ethical and political questions around mass leisure and tourism, in relation to travel writing, versus the ‘committed’ traveller. We will look at two written texts, and two photobooks. We then turn to ‘travel at home’ and ethnographies of the transnational city via two works on the mass transit system of Paris.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

By the end of the course, students should: • Possess a high level of knowledge of recent theoretical frameworks on travel writing and cultural mobility, and of a range of travel narratives produced in French from the late 1940s to the present. • Have developed skills in using these theories as analytical tools for understanding the set texts • Be capable of engaging in close, critical readings of a range of texts, while demonstrating an awareness of the historical and cultural contexts in which those texts were produced. • Have developed skills in producing structured and coherent arguments in oral presentations and written assignments. • Demonstrate confidence and skill when engaging in discussion and debate of the course’s key issues. • Have developed strong reading skills in French, if relevant to their degree programme. • Be able to relate the theoretical issues studied to their own experience of mobility, displacement and travel

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Possess a high level of knowledge of recent theoretical frameworks on travel writing and cultural mobility, and of a range of travel narratives produced in French from the late 1940s to the present.


Key themes will include • Cultural encounter • Anthropology as literature • The traveller-tourist ‘distinction’ • Representing displaced subjectivity • Relationships between space, place and identity • Political and ethical engagement • Authenticity and alienation • Cultural diversity and the modes of contemporary exoticism • Questions about home and belonging, foreignness and displacement, national and transnational identities • The traveller’s shifting relationship to place and to textuality

Learning and Teaching

Wider reading or practice38
Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Augé, Marc (1997). L’impossible voyage. Le tourisme et ses images. 

Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1955). Tristes Tropiques. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 55%
Individual Presentation  (10 minutes) 10%
Literature review  (1500 words) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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