Far Out: Voyages of Enlightenment

TahitiProf Adriana Craciun
English 265
Spring 2010

In this interdisciplinary seminar we will explore the roles played by voyaging, mobility and transplantation in 18th through 19th century writings concerned with “Enlightenment,” broadly conceived. Drawing on scholarship from history of science, geography, art history, literary theory, history of the book, anthropology, and postcolonial theory, this class considers the category of “literature” in relationship to other forms of knowledge in the long 18th and 19th centuries, including expedition logs, visual materials, journalism, and museum exhibitions. Each week we will read primary texts (including writings by Daniel Defoe, James Cook, William Beckford, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley) alongside key critical texts (e.g., Bruno Latour, James Clifford, Marshall Sahlins, Gananath Obeyesekere, Nicholas Thomas, Tony Bennett, Jill Casid) and visual materials.

Our inquiry will be situated in both time and space: we will consider how voyaging may have differed in specific geographic spaces (e.g., Africa, Oceania, Arctic); how voyaging texts (visual and verbal, “fictionalized” and “factual”) emerged under specific cultural and institutional conditions (e.g., as part of scientific networks, or commercial markets); how major historical shifts over the last three hundred years transformed debates on empire, race, exploration and “Enlightenment”; how encounters between indigenous and European agents often played significant roles in transforming both, however asymmetrically; how concepts like mutuality, reciprocation, improvement functioned in shaping diverse British identities and aesthetics.

Week 1 : March 30 Introduction

  1. Withers, Charles.  “Introduction: The Enlightenment: Questions of Geography” in Placing the Enlightenment. University of Chicago Press, 2007. 1-24. Blackboard.
  2. Seigert, Bernhard. Introduction, Relays: On Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System.
  3. Leask, Nigel. Intro to Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing.
  4. Mary Terral, “Heroic Narratives of Quest and Discovery,” Configurations 6.2 (1998) 223-42. Online via Project Muse: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/configurations/v006/6.2terrall.html
  5. Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” online in various sites, ie: http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/etscc/kant.html

Week 2:  April 6

  1. Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
  2. Wheeler, Roxann.  “My Savage,” “My Man”: Racial Multiplicity in Robinson Crusoe.” ELH 62.4 (1995) 821-861.
  3. Jonathan Lamb, Introduction and Chap. 2 from Preserving the Self in the South Seas 3-15, 49-75.

Week 3: April 13 Voyage I of James Cook

[Note: We will meet in Special Collections, Rivera Library for part of this day’s seminar]

  1. James Cook, The Journal: First Voyage, (pp. 1-212)
  2. Nicholas Thomas, Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook:  pp. 3-162.
  3. “Hawkesworth: The Unfortunate Compiler”: extract of compared versions of  “Massacre at Poverty Bay” Oct. 1769  (from Jonathan Lamb, ed., Exploration and Exchange: A South Seas Anthology, pp. 73-91)
  4. Keith Vincent Smith, “Tupaia’s Sketchbook” (2005)  (British Library)

Week 4: April 20 Voyage II and III of James Cook

  1. James Cook, The Journals: Second Voyage and Death of Cook (213-422)
  2. Nicholas Thomas, Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook: pp. 163-404
  3. Borofsky, Robert et al.  “Cook, Lono, Obeyesekere, and Sahlins.”  Current Anthropology 38.2 (April 1997) 255-82.

Week 5: April 27

  1. William Beckford, Vathek.
  2. Jill Casid, “Transplanting the Metropole” (Beckford section) Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. 
  3. Diego Saglia. “William Beckford’s ‘Sparks of Orientalism’ and the Material-Discursive Orient of British Romanticism.” Textual Practice 16(1), 2002.

Week 6: May 4

  1. Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa.
  2. Mary Louise Pratt, Introduction and Chap 4, “AntiConquest II: The Myth of Reciprocity” in Imperial Eyes 1-12, 67-83.
  3. Bruno Latour, Chap. 6, “Centres of Calculation,” From Science in Action, 215-57.

Week 7: May 11

  1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
  2. Jessica Richard, “A Paradise of my own creation: Frankenstein and the Improbable Romance of Polar Exploration.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts,  25 (2003), 295–314.
  3. Franco Moretti, “Introduction: Towards a Geography of Literature” and selection from Chap 1 (The novel, the nation-state), Atlas of the European Novel (Verso, 1998) 3-10, 12-40.

Week 8: May 18

  1. Poe, Pym and “MS Found in a Bottle”
  2. Betsy Erkilla, “The Poetics of Whiteness: Poe and the Racial Imaginary” in Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race
  3. Sundquist, Eric. “Exploration and Empire.” Cambridge History of American Literature. Vol. 2. Ed. Sacvan Bercovitch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. 127–74.

Week 9: May 25

  1. McClintock, The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Sea (1859)
  2. Russell Potter, excerpt from Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875. (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press; Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2007).
  3. Visual & newspaper materials about Franklin searches, relics, cannibalism, museum displays (provided in class)
  4. James Clifford, “Museums as Contact Zones,” Routes 188-219.
  5. Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex.”

Week 10: Individual Research Consultations (no class meeting)


  • Essay  80% (20 pages, submitted vis SafeAssignment on Blackboard): due end of finals week
  • One Presentation on Critical text 20% (15 minutes)
  • One ungraded presentation on research project (towards end of quarter)
  • Regular attendance and participation in class discussions

Text List:

  • Beckford, William. Vathek. Ed Kenneth Graham. Broadview, 2001.
  • Cook, James. The Journals. Ed. Philip Edwards. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003.
  • Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, ed. Michael Shinangel. Norton Critical Edition, 2nd edition, 1994).
  • McClintock, Francis. The Voyage of the ‘Fox’ in the Arctic Seas. London: John Murray, 1859. Photocopy.
  • Park, Mungo. Travels in the Interior of Africa. Wordsworth Classics, 2005. (NB: The UCR Bookstore requires advance purchase of this title. It’s also available in Duke UP edition)
  • Poe, Edgar Allan.  Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and Related Tales. Ed. J. Gerald Kennedy. Oxford UP, 2008.
  • Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The Original 1818 Text. Ed. MacDonald and Scherf. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview, 1999.
  • Thomas, Nicholas. Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (Walker & Co, 2004). [Also published in UK under the title Discoveries: The Voyages of Capt James Cook (Penguin, 2004). Either edition is ok.]

Recommended Texts:

  • Jonathan Lamb, Preserving the Self in the South Seas,  1680-1840. Chicago: Chicago UP, 2001.
  • Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London: Routledge, 1992.

Comments are closed.