COOL CLASSES: “Travel Narratives in Latin America”

COOL CLASSES: “Travel Narratives in Latin America”

Class name: Travel Narratives in Latin America

Taught by: Associate Professor of Spanish Ariana Huberman


Here’s what Huberman has to say about her course:

This course examines the ideas and impact of European travel writers in Latin America and the Caribbean. We discuss the imprint travel writers have left on the literature of Latin America from the 17th century to the present.

The course is divided in two parts: the first part covers writings about the presence of pirates and buccaneers, as well as the travel narratives to Latin America by European explorers and scientists such as Humboldt and Darwin. The second part of the course introduces narratives that stem from “real” and/or fictitious travels by Latin American authors such as Sarmiento, Hudson, Merlin, and Aira. Discussions include questions of construction of knowledge, nation-building, and problems of race, class, and gender. A special focus is placed on the presence of post-colonial concerns such as the traveler/travelee dynamic subject.

The overall aim of the course is to familiarize the students with the travel-writing genre and in so doing to provide a novel perspective on the intricate and complex relationship between Europe and Latin America through literary portrayals of historical events, personalities, and social processes.

This class was inspired by one of my favorite courses I took at graduate school at NYU. It was taught by Professor Sylvia Molloy. Her class introduced me to William Henry Hudson, one of the authors I wrote about in my book Gauchos and Foreigners (2010) and that I include in my version of the class.

Many of the questions that come up in the readings I chose to include center on encounters between foreign travelers and natives. The travelers include scientists, artists, socialites, immigrants, and exiles, among others. The class includes texts from the 17th century until the present time, but our conversation goes back to 1492, when Columbus arrived in the Americas to give context to the issues that we study.

While this class’ focus is on travels between Europe and Latin America, the theoretical and critical readings we use address the history of the travel-writing genre in Europe and the United States. Moreover, the problems and questions that stem from transnational encounters by people who are often unequal footing inform many of the serious problems we are facing today in the U.S. This course offers a historical and critical context to how peoples have related, and have (mis)understood each other overtime, but the theoretical tools offered here can be used to think about other cultural contexts.



See what other courses the Department of Spanish is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience. 

Image: Oil panting of Alexander von Humbolt and Aimé Bonpland by Eduard Ender, 1856.

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