Mobility and the American Road Narrative Genre

Thursday, March 11, 2010Friday, March 12, 2010
Programs for Teachers
Chicago Teachers as Scholars

Viewed as everything from an extension of frontier ideology to the expression of counter culture, the American road narrative has been understood as the story of an individual who embraces the geographical freedom and flexibility represented by the automobile to achieve a range of other mobilities—from the psychological and sexual to the spatial, social and economic—seemingly put in motion by this travel. In this seminar, we will examine the history of this popular genre, asking why it endures as a representative “American” form and experience, and how its Americanness is related to its engagement with ideas of mobility. We will explore materials from the 1910s and 1920s, including early road narratives, maps, advertisements, and photographs, as well as more recent examples. We will consider how the meaning of mobility changes over time and how these stories of mobility reinvent both space and identity, revealing larger historical and cultural issues in the process.

Seminar led by Ann Brigham, Roosevelt University