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Fall 2010 seminar

On the Road: Intercultural Encounters in Europe and the Americas


From explorers to immigrants to tourists, ours is a world in motion. Ancient peoples followed the movement of wild game. Native Americans migrated across the continent. Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere against their will. Nineteenth-century Americans looked for whatever was beyond the frontier, while their children and grandchildren visited Europe to soak up the culture. Whatever the motive, humans are rarely still.

The Fall 2010 Newberry Seminar in the Humanities will take a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary look at travel and travel writing - surveying Europe, Latin America, and the United States - across more than 400 years of history. The seminar will compare European experiences and texts with their New World counterparts from the United States and Latin America.

The first five to six weeks of the seminar will focus on group reading and discussion, looking at travel narratives from the ages of European discovery and conquest, the American frontier, and modern tourism. Through these readings and discussions, seminar participants will encounter a representative body of travel accounts while being introduced to the Newberry’s extraordinary collections, refining their individual research projects, and developing critical perspectives.

The heart of the seminar will be students’ independent research. While research projects need not be about travel, the Newberry’s holdings are a splendid resource for the study of travel and travel writing. The collections about the European exploration and settlement of North America are virtually bottomless. Students can explore Cortes’s first reports from the Americas, discover how American Indians’ maps of the land compared to John Smith’s, trace how the Grand Canyon - described by early explorers as a wasteland - was rehabilitated as a national treasure and tourist destination.

The Newberry offers extensive holdings in European and North American travel guides, rare accounts of U.S. tourists abroad, and documents and ephemera relating to the development of the railroads in North America. The Library’s extensive cartography collection has a wealth of maps and atlases, from 15th-century portolan charts that guided sailors through the Mediterranean to 20th-century tourist road maps of the American West.

This seminar will present many opportunities for students in a variety of fields. Historians will be able to delve into voyages of discovery and conquest, colonial life, independence movements, slavery, and the experience of Native Americans. Philosophers can consider how travel accounts influenced Rousseau’s conception of human nature. Students interested in literature can look at fictional and non-fictional travel narratives, including first editions of More’s Utopia, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and many more.

For students particularly interested in Latin America, the Newberry’s Edward E. Ayer Collection on the American Indian and the William B. Greenlee Collection on Portuguese and Brazilian history will be very useful. Here they will find material relating to travel in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies and subsequent republics. Those in religious studies will be able to look at 400 years of Catholicism in Spain and the Americas, religious practices of Native Americans, and African traditions in the New World such as vodun, santería, and macumba.

The Newberry seminar can be a decisive experience for humanities majors who consider a future in graduate study. It fosters a collaborative spirit among its participants who live and work together on Chicago’s Gold Coast, and offers the opportunity to work closely with Newberry staff as well as with the two ACM faculty members who lead the program.

Faculty

DAVID GEORGE

Lake Forest College, Modern Languages and Literatures (Ph.D. University of Minnesota)

For more information, go to David George's faculty page.

BENJAMIN GOLUBOFF

Lake Forest College, English (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania)

For more information, go to Benjamin Goluboff's faculty page.