The Road Trip

Explore the road trip as narrative in this week’s Review of the Week

American road narratives : reimagining mobility in literature and film

Brigham, Ann. Virginia, 2015
262p bibl index afp, 9780813937243 $65.00, 9780813937502 $29.50, 9780813937519 $29.50

Speculating on what inspires people to travel, Brigham (Roosevelt Univ.) focuses on how the concept of mobility, specifically the road trip, has shaped US national imagery. The author offers a unique concept of mobility: based on Tim Cresswell’s On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (2006), Brigham’s definition insists that mobility helps one engage with—rather than free oneself from—space, society, and identity. The book comprises five chronological chapters. The first addresses the earliest US road narratives, which made their appearance in the 1910s with the advent of an automobile culture that promised to incorporate the outsider into US social identity. Subsequent chapters consider post-WW II narratives, which focused on a questioning, alienated, male protagonist in search of truth; women as protagonists in the 1980s-90s, and their need to reject or accept traditional gender roles; late-20th-century Native American protagonists embarking on travel journeys requiring reevaluation of the personal, communal, and historical to create a new self-perspective; and post-9/11 representations of the road, in which mobility serves to reclaim an identity lost in that national tragedy. In the end, Brigham is successful in revealing the need to question and redefine the idea of mobility and establish a new perspective on engagement and American identity.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Reviewer: S. L. Rottschafer, Aquinas College
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – English & American
Choice Issue: Nov 2015