HUMS 026, Six Pretty Good Journeys

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1pm-2:15pm, F 12:30pm-3:30pm
Fall 2021

Image Credit: Detail from Mohamed Fadul, Suakin 41 (Sudan)

Course Description:

Through the lens of travel accounts—by merchants, envoys, scholars, pilgrims and wanderers—this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. The course is anchored by accounts of trans-continental journeys to six regions: China, Egypt, the Holy Land, the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. Key texts include: The Periplus (Greek, 1st-century), Ibn Fadlan’s Mission to the Volga (Arabic, 10th-c.), Benjamin of Tudela’s Itinerary (Hebrew, 12th-c.), Abd al-Latif’s Physician on the Nile (Arabic, 12th-c.), Marco Polo’s Travels (Franco-Venetian, 13th-c.), Margery Kempe’s Autobiography (English, 14th-c.).

We also read works by contemporary travelers Emily O’Dell and Tim Mackintosh-Smith. All provide a foundation for us to explore the ways we think about ourselves and the “other,” home, the unfamiliar and wondrous—in short, the diversity of human experience. We make extensive use of Yale’s rich manuscript archives, historical object collections, and art galleries and devote sustained attention to improving students’ academic writing skills. Friday sessions alternate between writing workshops and field trips to Yale collections. 

Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Freshman Seminar Program.

1.5 credits for Yale College students

Led by:

Professor Shawkat Toorawa’s scholarly interests include: classical and medieval literature, especially the literary and writerly culture of Abbasid Baghdad; the literatures of the Indian Ocean; modern poetry; and SF film and literature.

Professor Toorawa’s books include an edition and collaborative translation of Ibn al-Sa’i’s 13th-century Consorts of the Caliphs: Women and the Court of Baghdad, and the edited anthology The City That Never Sleeps: Poems of New YorkHe is currently preparing an edition and translation of Ibn al-Marzuban’s The Superiority of Dogs, a 10th-century work on friendship, and wants to write a book about The Princess Bride.