American Studies
American Studies

Leah Butterfield

Doctoral Student
Leah Butterfield



Feminist Theory and Practice, Queer Theory, Memoir and Personal Essay, Tourism Studies, Immigration Studies, Digital Humanities


Leah Butterfield is a third-year Ph.D. student in American Studies, with a Portfolio in Women's and Gender 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 dissertation focuses on solitary women, women's mobility, and the representations of these figures in American literature and culture. Her broader research interests include contemporary travel and tourism, histories of feminism, U.S. immigration, and memoir. She has presented papers on topics including undocumented immigrant "coming out" essays, tourism and spectacle in Eat Pray Love, contemporary travel and migration memoirs, and the performance of solitary female travel. 



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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