From the Underground Railroad to the Settlement of the West to the modern cross-country road trip, travel narratives have infused American history and popular culture. Many of the most famous travel narratives were written by people who found themselves “outsiders” along the way; from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, to John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie, to Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, in most of these stories the protagonist is positioned as an explorer in an exotic place (whether that be Jim Crow Alabama or the American West) on a journey of self-discovery to encounter the “real” America. What is so compelling about travel stories? What can they teach us about American history, culture, and society?
Join Dr. Allen Pietrobon for a road trip through America where we will explore the nature and impact of American travel stories. Beginning with the wagon trains of the 1840s, to the transcontinental railroad of the 1880s, through the iconic road trips on the newly built interstates of the 1960s, we will question why tales of travel and migration are so central to American history, exploring how the movement of people helped to shape the modern United States.