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WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Travel Writing


Charles Doersch, MFA


Welcome to the online version of “Travel Writing.” You have made a good choice. Travel is one of the most enduring themes in writing. From earliest human history “setting out on a journey” provided the context for a great range of literature, from hero mythologies to religious teachings to philosophical inquiry to poetry, and more. We are surrounded by a wealth of writing inspired by travel: poems, narratives, novels, essays, journals, country guides, etc.; the list goes on and on. Now “travel writing” includes as well such texts as films, TV shows, documentaries, podcasts, videos, YouTube postings, music videos, vlogs, blogs, and on and on.

For this class, we will be reading and writing creative non-fiction in the context of travel. As the University of Colorado’s Program for Writing and Rhetoric reflects on this important genre:

Creative nonfiction is an important and integral part of the writing curriculum in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric. From helping students reflect on their experience and deepen their thinking, to encouraging them to engage the community and compose as public writers, creative nonfiction offers our students a uniquely vibrant, personal mode of writing that is engaged with developing a self-aware writer who actively explores the relationship between creativity and rhetoric.

This course is not a class in journalism or literature, but rather one in rhetoric and composition; for the most part, we will not be analyzing and studying travel writing as a literary genre or historical development. We will be delving into a range of writing about travel primarily to examine rhetorical approaches, strategies, and practices that have made these particular writings successful (and, of course, we will also enjoy and be challenged by the stories we read and watch). We will do this in order to become more skillful writers and more skillful readers. Thus, we will examine whom the author was seeking to address, what the author’s purpose was in what she/he wished to convey and evoke, how the author chose to do that, to what degree the author was successful, and why. We will examine the context (cultural, spiritual, historical, societal) in which authors wrote and which they sought to address their audience. Our focus in our examination of travel writing, therefore, will be rhetorical. We will also be focused on composition: how to craft, draft, edit, revise, and re-revise texts with increasing rhetorical skill. Importantly, our composition and our rhetorical analysis will also be engaging “texts” that have been composed not only with written words, but with such “non-text” communication as photographs, video, music, visual design elements, etc. We are composing for the 21st century, after all.

Course instruction, class discussion, assignments, homework, and all communication will be conducted via D2L (Desire to Learn), university e-mail, Prezi presentation software, and social media such as Facebook and WordPress (blogs).

This course will be conducted as an online forum and workshop in which our own writing projects serve as core materials. Although we will address writing style and mechanics, our focus will primarily target communication strategies and forms that inform creative non-fiction travel writing.

In our online workshop setting, you will engage in a dialogue with your audience, working out meaningful theses, testing rhetorical strategies, responding to objections and potential objections, and revising (and revising) to effectively communicate with your readers. To do well in this course, you’ll want to display a high level of student participation as both writer and audience. After all, the course is both process-oriented and content-oriented, seminar and workshop.

Writing is a skill that must be practiced; it is not information we study and can be tested on. Accordingly, “attendance” (as we practice it through D2L and online attention), promptness, preparedness, and participation are essential to doing well in the course. Late or incomplete assignments, a passive approach to participation, or frequent online “silences” will negatively affect your final grade because these interrupt and impede your practice of writing.


McCarthy, Andrew, Ed. The Best American Travel Writing™ 2015. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.


D2L Discussions/Social Media Participation (15%)

Personal Travel PREZI (10%)

Travel Writing Analysis (8%)

Travel Videographic Composition Analysis (7%)

Travel Narrative (15%)

Travel Blog Recipe (10%)

Travel Blog (15%)

Group Participation (10%)

Class Participation (10%)

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