The Travel Habit
On the Road in the Thirties
|Semester and Year||FALL 2014|
|Time||2:00 PM – 3:15 PM|
Note: Course meets during second first seven weeks only. First Class: Thurs., Oct. 23; Last Class: Thurs., Dec. 11.
The Great Depression turned millions of people into travelers. Many of the unemployed took to the road in search of work, preferring to give up their homes rather than their cars; others hitchhiked and rode the rails. Ironically, it was also a time for leisure travel too, and this was the era when taking a family trip on a paid vacation became a national ritual. Government and industry promoted tourism to help the economy–and to pacify the working class. But getting people to travel required a deliberate, large-scale effort. As one tourism promoter put it, “The travel habit was not born with Americans. It’s an acquired taste that must be religiously and patiently cultivated.” So the Roosevelt administration created a national travel bureau to assist the hospitality industry, poured millions of dollars into roads and highways, and put authors like Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, and Ralph Ellison to work writing WPA travel guides. The travel theme attracted novelists like Nathaniel West and Nelson Algren, who used the journey motif in their fictions, and writer-and-photographer teams like James Agee and Walker Evans traveled to document the suffering of sharecroppers and migrant workers. This course will survey the travel writing of the 1930s and provide an introduction to the social history of travel and tourism during the period. Readings may include Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, West’s A Cool Million, Kromer’s Waiting for Nothing, Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White’s You Have Seen Their Faces, and Agee and Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, as well as the WPA travel guides and histories of the Depression and the tourist industry.
(available at the NYU bookstore and online)
Various articles and excerpts from other texts, also available online
1. Thirteen blog posts, approx. 500 words each (70% of final grade)
2. Thirteen comments on other posts (15%)
3. In class: attendance, participation, etc. (15%)
(for details, see the Assignment page)
|Week 1: Introduction|
|Thurs., Oct. 23||Introduction|
|Week 2: Writers on the Road|
|Tues., Oct. 28||Anderson, Asch, Caldwell, Adamic, Gilfillan||1. Setting Off|
|Thurs., Oct. 30||Pyle, Hickok, Rorty||2. Writers on the Road|
|Week 3: Down & Out in Fiction & Autobiography|
|Tues., Nov. 4||Kromer, Waiting for Nothing||3. Kromer|
|Thurs., Nov. 6||Guthrie, Bound for Glory; Boxcar Bertha; Algren, Somebody in Boots||4. Travel novels|
|Week 4: Writers & Photographers|
|Tues., Nov. 11||Lange & Taylor, Caldwell & Bourke-White||5. Words & Images|
|Thurs., Nov. 13||Agee & Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men||6. Agee-Evans|
|Week 5: The Grapes of Wrath|
|Tues., Nov. 18||Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath, chapters 1- 21||7. Steinbeck (1)|
|Thurs., Nov. 20||Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath, chapters 22 – end||8. Steinbeck (2)|
|Week 6: Movies|
|Tues., Nov. 25||On the Road in the Movies||9. Movies|
|Thurs., Nov. 27||Thanksgiving|
|Week 7: Innocents on the Road|
|Tues., Dec. 2||West, A Cool Million||10. West|
|Thurs., Dec. 4||Tourism in the Thirties: Wild, Agee, Berkowitz||11. Tourism|
|Week 8: America discovers itself|
|Tues., Dec. 9||WPA Guides||12. Guides|
|Thurs., Dec. 11||Conclusion||13. Final|
Deadlines: The blog posts are due the night before a class day (i.e., on Monday and Wednesday night), so there’s time to read them over before class. The comments on other people’s posts should be done with a day or two of the original post. These are important deadlines, and the website makes it easy to track them.
Plagiarism: In writing your posts, you are encouraged to copy and paste quotations from scholarly articles and other websites, but it is extremely important that you cite your source (author’s name or title of the piece) and provide a link to it. The blog posts are a form of academic writing, and plagiarism is a serious violation of the rules of academic integrity.
Attendance: The class is a discussion seminar, so attendance is very important. One or two absences are fine, but more than that will affect the final grade (with the exception of illnesses). It is not necessary to notify the instructor about your absences, unless you are having issues that you’d like to discuss.