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Western Kentucky University

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Dreaming of California: History and Literature

This progarm has been postponed until Winter 2016.

Dreaming of California:
History and Literature

newCalifornia has long captivated the American imagination as place of unique beauty, abundance, and opportunity—a place where people go to realize their hopes and dreams. In this two-week journey across the state, our goal will be to think about how geographical places are shaped by the way they are imagined. In the crowded streets of San Francisco, we'll explore the setting of Dashiell Hammett's classic detective novel The Maltese Falcon. We'll contemplate environmental issues as we hike the majestic trails of Yosemite and then witness the hazards produced by the sprawl of Los Angeles. On the California coast, we'll observe how the town of Monterey used John Steinbeck's Cannery Row to reinvent itself as a tourist hub after its actual canneries collapsed. And as we read Robinson Jeffers's poetry on the beach, we'll gain insight into his struggle to reconcile the remote wonders of Big Sur with the senseless human bloodshed of World War I. As we encounter and explore the places described in our course readings, we will come to understand more deeply how imaginative texts exercise real historical, political, and social influence over the places they describe.



  • Literary Scavenger Hunt in San Francisco
  • Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Haight-Ashbury District
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Huntington Botanical Gardens
  • Crystal Cove Beach Cottages on Newport Beach
  • Film Screening at Chinese Theater in Hollywood
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Hiking in Big Sur
  • Tor House in Carmel-by-the-Sea


Learning objectives

  • Acquire an understanding of major themes in California's history by visiting several critical places and discussing the imaginative texts—novels, poems, music, and film—that those places have inspired.
  • Through a two-week journey across the state, learn how various regions of California are interconnected and discuss the cultural, social, and environmental significance of these connections.
  • Gain proficiency in bringing together multiple disciplinary perspectives when discussing literary texts.
  • Understand the complicated and changing reasons for migration to California and how the state's diversity has influenced its culture and economy.


golden gate


The Program Leaders may determine other eligibility requirements, but at a minimum, all applicants need to meet these requirements: 

  • Good academic standing (Undergraduate Catalog p.27; Graduate Catalog p.30)
  • Registered for course.
  • 18 years of age or older at time of departure (parent/guardian permission for anyone under 18 at time of departure).
  • No current disciplinary sanctions as verified by Judicial Affairs.
  • Full payment prior to departure.
  • Completion of all pre-departure orientations.
  • Permission of instructor.
  • Complete Study Away application.


Logistical considerations

  • Program will involve hiking so please bring comfortable shoes.
  • Be prepared for both cold and warm climates and bring sunscreen. The weather might range from snow in Yosemite to the upper seventies in Newport Beach.
  • Participants will be allowed to navigate San Francisco and other locations without the immediate supervision of program leaders.


cable car

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Program Package

Included in Base Package

  • Undergraduate tuition for 3 credit hours ($1,090 value).
  • All lodging accommodations during program.
  • Entrance fees for all program related excursions.
  • Some group meals.
  • Course-related ground transportation.
  • Roundtrip airfare from Nashville, TN to San Francisco, CA.

Excluded from Base Package

  • Independent travel (non-program travel).
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, phone service, and Internet access.
  • Tips for guides and drivers not included in program-related activity.
  • Meals & Services and beverages not mentioned in the program, see syllabus.
  • Transportation from home to Nashville Airport.

Study Away courses are not eligible for employee tuition waivers or discounts.
Final program fee subject to change due to travel arrangements.


Planned Schedule

Jan. 3 Flight from Nashville to San Francisco.
Jan. 4 San Francisco.
Jan. 5 San Francisco.
Jan. 6 John Steinbeck archives at Stanford. Travel to Merced.
Jan. 7 Yosemite.
Jan. 8 Yosemite.
Jan. 9 Travel from Yosemite to Pasadena.
Jan. 10 Newport Beach. Lodging in historical beach cabins.
Jan. 11 Film screening in Hollywood.
Jan. 12 Los Angeles. Travel to San Luis Obispo.
Jan. 13 Hiking in Big Sur.
Jan. 14 Carmel-by-the-Sea. Travel to Monterey.
Jan. 15 Cannery Row and Monterey Aquarium.
Jan. 16 Flight from San Francisco to Nashville.

The schedule is subject to change due to educational opportunities that may arise unexpectedly, the vagaries of weather, and other factors beyond the control of the course instructors and staff.

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link to program details


  • HON 300
  • HIST 490
  • ENG 399

Faculty Leader


  • San Francisco
  • Monterey
  • Yosemite
  • Los Angeles
  • Newport Beach
  • Big Sur


  • Winter 2015


  • $3,299 (est)

Funding Options




Western Kentucky University and its associates are not responsible for any loss due to theft, personal injury, flight or weather delays, negligence, or default of suppliers, or suppliers changing of itineraries. They and their associates are not responsible for any loss due to travel/flight delays or changes in travel plans due to Acts of Nature or other unforeseen circumstances, nor are we responsible for accidents and medical care. Tour services are furnished by independent contractors who are not agents or servants of Western Kentucky University. Refunds are not available for unused portions of the package.


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 Last Modified 10/17/14