Fellow Travelers

Traveling this holiday weekend? This week's review considers "the role of the road and travelers along it," analyzing how literary travel accounts influenced American national identities.

Fellow Travelers: How Road Stories Shaped the Idea of the Americas

Ochoa, John A. Virginia, 2021
178p index, 9780813946078 $85.00, 9780813946085 $35.00, 9780813946092

Fellow Travelers: How Road Stories Shapes the Idea of the Americas boo cover. Image of a man riding a horse across a field.

In 1847, Argentine traveler Domingo Faustino Sarmiento humorously observed that the US was religiously devoted to the “noble and worthy instruments of its wealth: its feet.” The travel cult, argues John Ochoa (Spanish, Penn State Univ.), was hemispheric and far more than economic in its force. Ochoa’s deep-diving meditation on the role of the road and travelers along it (especially paired males) implicates both American continents in this multivalent cultural business. His subjects range from H. H. Brackenridge’s multivolume, satiric backwoods novel Modern Chivalry (1792–1815) and J. Fernández’s gauchesque epic poem Martín Fierro (published in two parts: 1872 and 1879) to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) and a (very) mixed bag of other literary texts and films and, for lack of a better term, situations that embody the underlying praxis. Ochoa considers by turns films as different as The Searchers (1956) and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) but also such huge historical topics as the frontier and the Cold War. The book is by no means a thorough treatment of any subject—rather, it offers a series of often brilliant insights. Best is Ochoa’s insistence on the North-South dialogue that his linked subjects exemplify. Much more of this sort of hemispheric scholarship is needed.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer: W. Franklin, University of Connecticut
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Latin American & Latina/o Studies
Subject: Humanities
Choice Issue: Aug 2022

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