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Critical Insights: American Road Literature

by Ronald Primeau


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Beginning with the westward thrust of early America’s seaboard colonies to the romanticized and philosophical road narratives of the Beat Generation, the American experience—its ideals, dreams, and subsequent disillusionments—has been quintessentially linked to the road. Whether grueling or carefree, spiritual or physical, these journeys upon the American highway have helped us to explore and define our diverse culture and establish the road narrative as an essential American genre. Edited by Ron Primeau, Professor of English at Central Michigan University, this volume in the Critical Insights series presents a variety of new essays on the genre. For readers who are studying it for the first time, four essays survey the critical conversation regarding the American road narrative, explore its cultural and historical contexts, and offer close and comparative readings of key texts in the genre. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of American road literature can then move on to other essays that explore it in depth through a variety of critical approaches. Works discussed include Theodore Dreiser’s A Hoosier Holiday, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Sinclair Lewis’ Free Air, and N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain, as well as the works of Mark Twain, Wright Morris, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, and Theodore Roethke. Among the contributors are Ann Brigham, Barry Alford, Dominic Ording, Deborah Paes de Barros, and Maureen Eke. Rounding out the volume are a list of literary works not mentioned in the book that concern the theme as well as a bibliography of critical sources for readers seeking to study this timeless theme in greater depth.

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Salem Press
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