ENGL 250
Americans Abroad Spring 2025
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed GBST 242 / AMST 242 / COMP 242

Class Details

This course will explore some of the many incarnations of American experiences abroad from the end of the 19th century to the present day. Materials will be drawn from novels, short stories, films, and nonfiction about Americans in Europe in times of war, peace, and pandemic. We will compare and contrast the experiences of novelists, soldiers, students, war correspondents, jazz musicians, and adventurers. What has drawn so many Americans to Europe? What is the difference between a tourist, an expat, and an √©migr√©? What are the profound, and often comic, gaps between the traveler’s expectations and the reality of living in, say, Paris or a rural village in Spain? What are the misadventures and unexpected rewards of living, working, writing, or even falling in love in translation? How did recent lockdowns and border closings impact and/or interrupt these complex experiences? Authors may include: Edith Wharton, Henry James, Langston Hughes, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, Elaine Dundy, Richard Wright, and Ben Lerner. Additional reading will be drawn from historical and critical works. All readings will be in English. This comparative course is designed to highlight the challenges and benefits of cultural immersion abroad. It will focus on the linguistic, emotional, intellectual, and social adaptation skills that are required to understand others, and oneself, in new contexts. Many of the authors and artists we will study chose, or were forced to, leave oppressive situations in the United States where their futures were limited due to factors related to politics, gender, race or class (and combinations thereof). We will study their dislocation, and freedom, and struggles to reshape their (and our) concept of “home” into something that reflects individual identity, and not one imposed by any national culture–American or foreign.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 18
Class#: 3665
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Each student will give an in-class presentation and complete 3 writing assignments totaling 20 pages; one of these writing assignments will be a personal travel narrative based on the student's own experiences.
Prerequisites: Any literature course at Williams or permission of instructor.
Enrollment Preferences: Comparative Literature, English or American Studies majors, and/or students who have studied away or plan on doing so, and/or students who are from international and/or bilingual (or multilingual) backgrounds.
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GBST 242 Division II AMST 242 Division II COMP 242 Division I ENGL 250 Division I
DPE Notes: We will read and analyze primary materials and literature that reflect on Americans who chose, or were forced to, reinvent themselves abroad to escape oppressive situations in the United States related to gender, class, race, or political views. The socio-historical context of each writer will be crucial to understanding their situations. Students will write critical papers, and their own narrative in which they reflect on a situation of personal dislocation, either while traveling, or at home.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
GBST Borders, Exiles + Diaspora Studies

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