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Émigré Representations of the American Roadside in Postwar Literature, Film and Photography

Court, EMA; (2016) Émigré Representations of the American Roadside in Postwar Literature, Film and Photography. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

My thesis proposes a cultural history of the American roadside post-1945, focusing on émigré American fiction, film and photography. Taking the American road trip to be one of the central narratives and aesthetic constructs of Western culture in the 20th century, I argue that one of the defining texts of the road genre, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), has placed emphasis on mobility and overlooked the places of fixity which facilitate motion. Yet the roadside has inhabited American visual culture since the 1950s, and the rise and continuous restructuring of its service industry was documented in many road narratives of the late 20th century. My close attention to émigré interpretations of the American road trip in the Eisenhower era uncovers early representations of the American roadside as marginal space, representations which demonstrate sociological awareness and challenge Kerouac’s idealised portrait of marginality. My thesis deals chronologically with works of émigré literature (Vladimir Nabokov), photography (Robert Frank), and film (Alfred Hitchcock, Wim Wenders), in which the American road and its commercial services are represented. My research is grounded in the genesis of significant works featuring the roadside by each of these authors, artists and auteurs ⎯ chronologically, Lolita (1955), The Americans (1958), Psycho (1960) and Paris, Texas (1984). Through their documentation of actual road-trip experiences, these works painted, with sometimes anthropological precision, the roadside’s gradual extension of bourgeois comfort beyond the suburbs and to the confines of the open road. Articulating a close reading of these texts, films and photographs with the existing research on the culture of the road in recent American social history, my work aims to show how these works have documented the evolution of the roadside industry in postwar America and reassessed the road trip narrative from the perspective of the outsider.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Émigré Representations of the American Roadside in Postwar Literature, Film and Photography
Event: UCL
Language: English
Keywords: american studies, film, photography, literature post-1945, transatlantic studies
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1485814
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