Off the Road: Travel and Road Trip Narratives, Fragments, and Aesthetics (ACLA 2018 Conference)
In American Road Narratives: Reimagining Mobility in Literature and Film (2015), Ann Brigham elaborates the identity building capacities of the road trip genre, and takes on the problem of mobility in women’s and minority writing. By challenging our privileging of mobility as a cultural mythology, Brigham complicates the required agency behind the very act of going on the road, analyzing ethnic and minority literature in light of contemporary political tensions.
This seminar seeks to engage with 20th and early 21st century works of fiction that share a recurring point of departure: an engagement with marginalization along the lines of race, gender, sexual identity, or class that meets the road, the journey, or other forms of travel that hold strong in varied literary traditions. What does a genealogy of road and travel literature look like when it goes “off the road,” and how do contemporary trends in mobility, migration, and travel studies reroute our understanding of automobility in American and comparative fiction?
We look forward to a discussion of how road trips and other traveling experiences in contemporary literature can subvert our understanding of freedom linked to mobility, and how writers who work at the crossroads of freedom and marginalization reappropriate our expectations for this genre. The discussion can extend to works that are travel narratives rather than road trip narratives although we are especially interested in “automobility” as a subcategory of mobility. How and why do non-elite and historically excluded writers deploy the road trip to reconfigure their notions of kinship and belonging? What does it look like to reconsider the road trip genre as a narrative of emotive and transformative affective experiences that structure community building on the move?
Topics may include, but are not limited to: automobility, minority experiences on the road, agency and mobility, gendered space, racialized space, coming of age on the road, queer road trip narratives, travel literature and marginalization, journey narratives, the politicization of space, landscapes in road or travel literature.
Abstract submissions of 100-250 words are due via the ACLA website by September 21 at 9 a.m. EST (please submit abstracts at this link: