In Search of America : Through The Eyes of Six Travelers | Osher Lifelong Learning Institute | University of Miami

In Search of America : Through The Eyes of Six Travelers

OSH 185 / Non Credit
Course taught in: English
Locations: TBA
Instructor: Dr. Marsha Cohen

Course Description

This course will examine the people and places in the U.S. through the eyes of six travelers, over the course of 175 years. Traveling through time and territory, we will try to discover what has changed, and what has remained the same, what experiences and values Americans share, and which they do not, for each of these authors.   Beginning with the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville and ending with a contemporary French author who would retrace de Tocqueville’s journey--with journeys in between by American authors writing about their own country--we will look at the US through their eyes.

Week 1

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a  French sociologist and political theorist, traveled to the US in 1831, recording his observations about American culture in the classic work Democracy in America (1835), which became one of the most influential books of the 19th century, and remains a classic.

Week 2

Samuel Clemens, a/k/a Mark Twain (1835-1910), worked briefly as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River just before the Civil War. Life on the Mississippi (1883), described mid-19th century middle America’s rivers, railroads, cities and people.

Week 3

Author James Agee (1909-1955) and photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975) accepted a 2-month assignment from Fortune magazine in 1936 to produce a "photographic and verbal record of the daily living and environment” of desperately poor white tenant farmers in the American south during the 1936 “Dust Bowl.” Agee’s nontraditional reporting and Evans' portfolio of haunting photographs were published under the title Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941).

Week 4

Renowned novelist John Steinbeck, wanting to see the country he loved one last time before his impending death, set out from Long Island, NY in 1960 with his dog Charley. They traveled nearly 10,000 miles in a specially adapted pickup truck nicknamed for Don Quixote’s horse Rocinante. Following the northern perimeter of the US, then heading south to California, east to Texas, and traversing the southern states, Steinbeck recorded his observations in Travels with Charley: In Search of America.

Week 5

Journalist Charles Kuralt (1934 - 1997) spent 25 years traveling across the backroads of the US, finding material for his "On the Road" segments for the CBS News with Walter Cronkite, Inspired by Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Kuralt wore out 6 motorhomes, and won three Peabody awards and ten Emmys before his retirement in 1994.  We will view video segments of Kuralt’s unique perspective of the varied people and places he encountered.

Week 6

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy  (1948-   ) retraced his countryman's journey in  American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville (2010), seeking to rediscover what it means to be an American in this "magnificent, mad country," vividly describing his perceptions of the US, assessing both its problems and its promise for the future.

Marsha B. Cohen, PhD, is an independent scholar, lecturer and news analyst who specializes in Middle Eastern social history and politics and the role of religion in world affairs. She taught International Relations at Florida International University for over a decade, and worked with the UM Master of Arts in the International Administration (MAIA) program from 2009-2011, as well as teaching adult education courses and lecturing in a variety of venues locally and nationally. 

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