This is a fast-moving course which begins with a survey of the history of western travel writing from medieval times to the present. En route, we will examine travel writing as a literary genre and scrutinize travel texts for social, political and cross-cultural implications which have been, and continue to be, instrumental in shaping worldviews.

As well as studying a wide range of primary texts in English from The Travels of Marco Polo to Pico Iyer’s The Global Soul, students  will also engage with critical and theoretical texts to explore such issues as, translation, gender, imperialism, tourism, the environment and postmodernism.

For queries relating to readers, classrooms, contact details etc. contact Tamix at

For questions on this course or the Programme as a whole you can contact me at



Syllabus and reading

1. Literary texts

A) Historical texts [short extracts]
Marco Polo, Travels of Marco Polo (Penguin ed. trans. Latham)
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (Penguin ed. trans Moseley)
Christopher Columbus, Journal (widely available on the internet)
James Cook, The Journals of Captain Cook (Penguin ed.)
James Boswell, The Journal*
Tobias Smollett, Travels through France and Italy*
Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy*
D H Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia*
Laurence Durrell, Sicilian Carousel*
Mary Montagu, Letters
Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa

A reader containing extracts from the above texts (A) will be available from the School of English office in mid-August (contact Tamix Extracts marked ‘*’ above can also be found in Paul Fussell, The Norton Book of Travel. You are encouraged to read ahead for each week so you can contribute to class discussion.

B) Contemporary texts [books]
Robyn Davidson, Tracks
Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land
Pico Iyer, The Global Soul

Extracts from these books will be made available for class, but you might find it useful to have your own copy of the books.

2. Further reading (critical and theoretical texts) available in the HKU library.

Bhabha, Homi K. 'Culture's In-Between' from Questions of Cultural Identity, eds. Hall and Du Gay (1996)
Blanton, Casey, Travel Writing: The Self and the World (2002).
Campbell, Mary B. The witness and the other world (1988)
Clifford, James, 'Travelling Cultures' in Routes: Travel and Translation…(1997).
Cronin, Michael, 'The Rambling House of Language', in Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation (2000)
Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. (1991)
Hall, Stuart, 'The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power' in Foundations of Modernity, eds. Hall and Gieben (1992).
Holland, Patrick and Graham Huggan, Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing (1998).
Howard, Donald. Writers and Pilgrims (1980)
Hulme, Peter and Youngs, Tim, The Cambridge Guide to Travel Writing (2002)
Korte, Barbara, English Travel Writing (2000).
Mills, Sara, Gender and Colonial Space (2005).
Pratt, Mary Louise. 'Criticism in the Contact Zone' in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992)
Roberson, Susan L (ed.). Defining Travel: Diverse Versions (2001)
Said, Edward. 'Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories' in Culture and Imperialism (1993)
Smethurst and Kuehn (eds.), Travel Writing, Form and Empire (2008)

Thompson, Carl. Travel Writing (2011)
Wood, Frances. Did Marco Polo Go to China? (1995)

This is only a sample of general works on travel writing. Don't worry if you can't get hold of some of these, and do look yourself for specific works on particular writers, periods and themes. You can find a wider selection of sources, including online sources at




1) One piece of travel writing (30%)
2) One critical essay (45%)
3) Participation, tutorial responses, in-class exercises (composite mark awarded at end of course 25%)



Teaching and learning schedule

Classes for this course will take place on Wednesdays, 6.30 to 8.30 p.m., at Centennial Campus.

Week 1 (9 Sept)
Introduction to genre, travel, maps and ideology .

Week 2 (16 Sept)
Marco Polo and John Mandeville
Writing 'the East'

Week 3 (23 Sept)
Columbus and Cook
The West and the Rest: encounter and division

Week 4 (30 Sept)
Boswell and Smollet
Travelling in the West: The Grand Tour

Week 5 (7 Oct)
Dickens and Lawrence
Escape! Literary travel and the touristic gaze.

Week 6 [12-17 October]
READING WEEK (no class)

Week 7 (28 Oct)
Mary Montagu and Mary Kingsley
Gender and alterity

Week 8 (4 Nov)
Robyn Davidson, Tracks
Feminism, nature and new primitivism

Week 9
(11 Nov)
Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
Zen and eco-criticism

Week 1
0 (18 Nov)
Amitav Ghosh, Travels in an Antique Land
The periphery writes back

Week 11
(25 Nov)
Pico Iyer, The Global Soul
Postmodernity and the limits of travel



Last updated: 3 July 2015