History 396:003
Fall 2001
Wednesdays, 1:00-4:00
Professor Rudi Lindner

The Ends of the Earth in History and Cinema

This seminar is about the changes that travel to distant lands wrought on European and American travelers, beginning with travel to Asia in the later Middle Ages and ending with imagined travels to Mars later this century. We will examine the impact of travel through the works written by travelers and also through cinema produced by travelers over the last century.

Your grade will reflect the class and written work over the course of the semester. Class attendance is important and your grade will suffer if you skip seminar meetings. If you are ill, see a physician and take care of yourself; when you return, please bring a note from the physician so I may excuse your absence. In class, I expect you to take an active role in discussions. As far as decorum goes, please show your classmates the respect you expect from them. Because we meet in the afternoon, you should feel free to bring lunch with you. Please do not read in class or disrupt the work of others with private conversation. We will have one or two breaks during each class meeting.

Participation in class will count for about forty per cent of your grade, and your essay grades will count for about sixty per cent. If your work improves during the term, I shall weight the later, better work more heavily in determining your final course grade.


The readings for this course consist of the words of travelers themselves, men and women, explorers, merchants, adventurers, and scholars. They wrote to inform, to make money, to justify their actions, and to make sense of their own experiences. Some of the writings reflect the reactions of the moment; most are the result of reflection on events sometime later. In short, these are not textbooks. They are not organized in outline fashion, working from the easiest to the most difficult material, nor are they intended to serve as a platform from which you climb to the next level of training. Their styles, therefore, differ from what you might read in other courses, especially courses that are part of a sequence.

How do you read such books? Each of you will develop individual skills with time and practice, but I can recommend a few techniques. First, take a few minutes to riffle through the pages and get a sense of what is going on. Who are the players, what is the important action, what are the main lines of development? This will help you to see the forest rather than a collection of one tree and another tree and a third tree and just how many of these trees must I memorize? Then you can relax and read the work slowly and with attention. I do not recommend underlining, as it is a classic passive learning skill. You will get more if you play an active role. Write comments and questions in the margins, take notes on a separate piece of paper, engage in a dialogue with the author.

Since we are going to be discussing the effects of travel on the traveler, I suggest that you always search for the assumptions that lie behind what the author has written, and that you watch how (s)he observes people and comments on her or his reactions.


I have placed the latest edition of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (Allyn & Bacon paperback) on the required book list. Please get it if you do not own it, and please review it, a few pages a day. This is a writing course and an opportunity to bring greater clarity and appeal to your writing. Seize the opportunity.


I take plagiarism very seriously. Here are the words of the Office of Student Academic Affairs: "Plagiarism is representing someone else's ideas, words, statements or other works as one's own without proper acknowledgement or citation. Examples of plagiarism are: copying word for word or lifting phrases or a special term from a source or reference without proper attribution; paraphrasing - using another person's written words or ideas, albeit in one's own words, as if they were one's own thought; borrowing facts, statistics, or other illustrative material without proper reference, unless the information is common knowledge, in common public use. Students may not use Internet source material, in whole or in part, without careful and specific reference to the source. All utilization of the Internet must be thoroughly documented." Students who plagiarize will fail, and the case file will go to the Dean for further action. If you are in any doubt whether your use of material constitutes plagiarism, please seek my assistance.

Class Schedule


Sept. 5

Introductions. First movie: Flash Gordon.

Sept. 12

Marco Polo. The Travels of Marco Polo, trans. Ronald Latham. Penguin paperback.

Sept. 19

Ludovico di Varthema. Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel, trans. Lincoln Davis Hammond. Harvard University paperback.


William Bligh. The Bounty Mutiny. Penguin paperback.

Sept. 26

First essay due in class. Movie: Grass.

Oct. 3

Isabella Bird [Bishop]. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. University of Oklahoma Press paperback.


Mary Wortley Montagu. The Turkish Embassy Letters. Virago Press paperback.

Oct. 10

Revised first essay due in class. Movie: 90 Degrees South.

Oct. 17

John Muir. My First Summer in the Sierra. Penguin paperback.


Monica Jackson and Elizabeth Stark. Tents in the Clouds: The First Women’s Himalayan Expedition. Seal Press paperback.

Oct. 24

Clarence King. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite Association paperback.


Jon Krakauer. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. Anchor Books paperback.

Oct. 31

Charles Darwin. The voyage of the Beagle. Penguin paperback.

Nov. 7

Second essay due in class. Movie: Conquest of Everest.

Nov. 14

Ernest Shackleton. The Heart of the Antarctic. Carroll & Graf paperback.

Nov. 21

Revised second essay due in class. Movie: Borneo.

Nov. 28

Sven Hedin. My Life As an Explorer. Kodansha International paperback.


Owen Lattimore. The Desert Road to Turkestan. Kodansha International paperback.

Dec. 5

Gertrude Bell. The Desert and the Sown. Cooper Square paperback.


Aurel Stein. On Ancient Central Asian Tracks. South Asia Books paperback.

Dec. 12

Third essay due in class. Reading assignment: Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (Bantam Books paperback).

Dec. 17

Third essay drafts available at my office.

Dec. 20

Revised third essay due at my office.