NeMLA (Boston Mar. 21-24, 2013): On the Road before _On the Road_: Transatlantic Travel Narratives, 1850-1918

full name / name of organization: 
Leslie Simon, chair (Utah Valley University)
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The poetics of the road trip are frequently associated with literature of the twentieth century: from Steinbeck's tragic-epic account of automobile displacement, to Kerouac's celebration of carefree vagabondism, to McCarthy's apocalyptic vision of our permanent expulsion from home, writers of the unprecedentedly mobile last century have examined the rewards and costs that accompany the call of the road. These examinations recall the early-nineteenth-century Romantic idealization of travel as a form of spontaneous self-discovery through the individual's surrender to, and fusion with, the sublime forces of nature. At the same time, modern road narratives incorporate a critique of the organized, ratiocinated mass tourism that grew up in the wake of late-nineteenth-century imperialism, apparently precipitating the loss of authentic travel as it had been imagined by the Romantics.

This panel invites critical responses to the assumption that the figure of the road tripper finds his logical 'home' in the Modernist text. Traditional criticism most readily identifies the allegorical figure of the road tripper with the non-linear, fragmented nature of post-realist narrative. In this session, we will look for papers that both confirm and disrupt this assumption. How does transatlantic literature, from the middle of the nineteenth century forward, distinguish between travel and tourism? Should we interpret the mass-produced realist novel as a literary analogue to the culture of mass tourism that developed alongside it? Or does the realist novel too offer the potential to 'go off the beaten track,' to resist the tyranny of the predestined itinerary? Most basically, this panel will explore how narrative—in all its forms—might be considered a journey through both time and space, and we will consider how, as notions of time and space alter at the turn of the twentieth century, so too do notions of travel—both on the road and on the page.

Please send 300-500-word abstracts to by September 30, 2012.