Cultural Encounter in Literature: What Do We Mean by Travel?March 27, 2019

You'll encounter travelling in Virginia Woolf's novel, as well as Jonathan Swift's satire. Ernest Hemingway's search for the big experience will find him in the hunting grounds not far from Mount Kilimanjaro, which is not so different from Jack Kerouac's splurge on a European holiday. There's more to travelling than a week in Bali. Your professor won't ask for your own concept after a weekend by the seaside, yet this will influence your thoughts on your assignment. What do you mean by travel?

Cultural encounter is a broad subject, covering local works and the classics in English literature. World literature is included, which makes the subject more interesting. (If the subject is colonialism, then Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" would be a good example.) It also alludes to immigration, and Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" is the front runner. It can be interpreted as running away as well, but "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" may not fall under this category. After all, Lewis Carroll's novel can be seen as a young girl's transition to adolescence. In other words, the subject can be as narrow as Guy de Maupassant's account of the bucolic life in the French countryside and as broad (and complex) as John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress".

Notable writers like Doris Lessing will be mentioned here, and their works will be discussed as well. It doesn't mean that local authors will be left out. Keep in mind that bush poetry doesn't fall under this category unless you're thinking about the sense of place. Someone might tell you that travelling is a one-or-the-other thing. It doesn't differ here.

Topics of Discussion: What Your Professors Expect From You

The world looks interesting from a higher perspective. Italo Calvino's "The Baron in the Trees" is the enthralling account of love affairs, politics, and war, as seen from the eyes of a noble lad who didn't go down a tree after refusing to eat his plate of snails. This is different from Don Quixote's view (while riding on his horse), but you can see how perspectives can be different from varying points. You need to pick one and expand your argument. There's no need to climb the mountain, if not recall your last visit to the Blue Mountains. Think outside of the box.

Lessons from an unloved place. D.H. Lawrence was a native of the Midlands, and he witnessed the effects of the Industrial Revolution on his family. Anyone who grew up in that region, if not who had passed through it, would note the stark difference between the central parts of England and the southern areas that are not far from London. It would be obvious to note the vandalism and almost-forgotten landmarks, which Lawrence didn't describe in "Lady Chatterley's Lover". You must talk about your thoughts (or feelings) about a particular place, and how it would change you. It’s impossible to discuss it without associating it with a certain individual (or people) you know. It should be travel writing otherwise.

This place had seen better days. Alaa Al Aswany described the Yacoubian Building and the people who lived in it. Readers would see the gradual fall of Egypt while the author describe the multi-storey building, a far cry from the time when pharaohs ruled the once-fertile land. Those who visited Cairo would attest the Yacoubian Building wouldn't be a product of Aswany's imagination, but an analysis of this novel would cover a wide array of subjects. Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" can be included in the discussion, but there's a danger of including other topics not related to travelling. Focus on one place (and nothing else).

Get ready for your "downstream education". "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Lover" are the best examples of “downstream education”. If you read both books, then you would know that there's a huge difference between the two. Water would be more than a metaphor. If you read the biography of Mark Twain (or Marguerite Duras), then you could make a guess easily.

Meet the landscape writers. Hemingway may be the leading writer here, making his readers recall about many things. In the case of "The Old Man and the Sea", a fisherman wouldn't search for the gorgeous side of the Gulf of Mexico. He was down on his luck, and the sea (or the huge marlin) would teach him lots of (life) lessons. The same thing applies to Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. (Hemingway didn't mention the well-preserved carcass of the leopard in the snow-capped summit for nothing.) It would be more than your first impression, which can be described in several pages (like what Hemingway did in his short stories). If you’re having trouble, then recall your hometown. There must be one feature that makes it special.

How to Compare the Decades

A literary analysis of the place is different from travel writing. Pay attention to the period. (Australia has come a long way since the colonial era.) If there’s no mention of the time, then read the author’s biography. It helps if you see the celluloid version of the novel. (Ken Russell’s “Women in Love” was released in 1969, which heralded the turbulent 1970s.) If you can think of another creative way, then don’t hesitate to explore it. There’s no right or wrong in this kind of (literary) analysis.

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