Dan Van Tassel: Tales of Travel

Expanded description:  For this course you will need to gain access to multiple books/readings, all of which are available in local libraries:

  • Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner (available for free at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43997/the-rime-of-the-ancient-mariner-text-of-1834)
  • Homer’s The Odyssey (new or used via bookfinder.com at as little as $4)
  • Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels (new or used on bookfinder.com for less than $10)
  • Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (new or used on bookfinder.com for less than $7)
  • John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (new or used on bookfinder.com for less than $7)
  • Robyn Davidson’s Tracks (new or used on bookfinder.com for less than $10)
  • Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (new or used on bookfinder.com for less than $5)

I’ll supply study guides in advance to stimulate our thoughts and discussions of the individual assigned travelogues.

Calendar of Assignments

Jan.   9             We’ll start our reading and discussion with accounts of two voyages, the first we’ll address is Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a wonderful narrative poem. It usually takes up about 16 pages in an anthology. The last half-hour or so of the period we’ll turn to the wanderings of Odysseus (Book 1 of The Odyssey). Any translation–prose of verse–will work.

Jan. 16             Today (focusing on Books 5-13 of The Odyssey), we continue the interrupted wanderings and epic adventures and heroic exploits of the hero, who finally makes it home to chase out rivals and reunite with his family

Jan.  23            We take to the roads and trails and ferryboats around the globe with Ted Simon on his motorcycle. Recorded in his Jupiter’s Travels, it’s a 65,000 mile, 4-year marathon journey. If pressed for time, I’d recommend leaving unread the last third of the section covering South and North America and the sections covering Australia and Malaysia, finishing up with India.      

Jan. 30             Today, catching our breath, we’ll hop On the Road with Kerouac, the so-called bible of the beat generation. If you’re not up to reading the work in its entirety, I’d say skip the following chapters: chaps. 5, 6, 11, & 14 of Part 1; chaps. 7, 10, & 11 of Part 2; chaps. 6, 7, & 10 of Part 3; and chaps. 1, 4, 5, & 6 of Part 4.

Feb.   6            Continuing with the genre of trekking, today we compare notes from our reading of Part One of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, amounting to 160 pages. (The second part, optional reading, features Christian’s wife and family taking to the straight-and-narrow and headed, in his footsteps, for the Celestial City.)

Feb.  13           Our exotic excursion for discussion today is Robyn Davidson’s Tracks, an exhausting journey from ocean to ocean across the desert of Australia astride a camel. You may skip over the first three chapters, which are concerned with preparations for the journey, leaving 200 pages to cover.

Feb.  20           Today, discussing the novelette Heart of Darkness, we’ll embark on a boat up the River Congo with Conrad’s narrator Marlow to explore the highs and lows of so-called civilized people engaged in lording it over and exploiting so-called savages.

Feb.  27           In port, we’ll finish up any loose ends of our gallivanting, share some of our own travel highlights with our colleagues, and debrief our experiences with tales of travel.