American Studies
American Studies

Leah Butterfield

Doctoral Student
Leah Butterfield



Transnational Feminism, Queer Theory, Memoir and Personal Essay, Tourism Studies, Immigration Studies, Digital Humanities


Leah Butterfield is a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University in 2017, and her Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University in 2014.

Her work focuses on the role of solitary women in contemporary travel and tourism, as well as in U.S. immigration. She is particularly interested in the ways that female travelers and immigrants depict their experiences through memoir (often with great commercial success) and personal essay (typically in online publications or blogs). Past research has looked at DREAM Act rhetoric and American identity, the liberatory potential of undocumented immigrant "coming out" essays, and representations of heroines in 19th-century fiction.


AMS 311S • Americans Abroad

30517 • Fall 2019
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM BUR 436A

Throughout U.S. history, Americans have defined, questioned and reworked their sense of national identity by traveling outside of the nation’s borders. From Audre Lorde to Anthony Bourdain, this course will consider various Americans who have traveled abroad, looking at how their voyages have been imagined, experienced and represented in literature and popular culture. We will approach these figures and journeys from multiple perspectives, asking questions about how international travel influences individuals as well as local, national and global communities. A key goal of this course will be to consider the ways that Americans with differing levels of privilege have approached international travel. We will question the ways that gender, sexuality, race, class, age, ability and citizenship status shape not only which individuals are easily able to leave the country, but also how those individuals experience travel. We will consider tourism alongside other modes of travel, including travel on behalf of social causes, in search of knowledge, or travel in service of governmental or corporate agendas. Themes that we will return to throughout the course will be cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, consumerism, mobility and identity.

The course will begin in the mid-nineteenth century, looking at the ways technological advances made international tourism feasible for increasing numbers of Americans, resulting in humorous travelogues like Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. Moving into the twentieth century, we’ll address the destruction wrought by the World Wars, as well as the liberatory potential of movements such as WWII’s “Double V Campaign,” where black Americans fought for the dual victories of freedom abroad and freedom at home. During the last third of the course, we will consider international travel towards the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, looking at travel TV shows and best-selling memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love for what they can tell us about the interplay between international travel and American identity.

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