English R1B

Reading & Composition: On the Road

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2012 Yoon, Irene
MWF 11-12 225 Wheeler

Book List

Nabokov, Vladimir: The Annotated Lolita; Steinbeck, John: Travels with Charley in Search of America

Other Readings and Media

(May include the following...)

[F i l m s  &  T V  s h o w s]

  • Sullivan's Travels
  • I Love Lucy
  • Thelma and Louise

[C o u r s e   R e a d e r]

  • Select FSA photographs by Dorothea Lange
  • Vladimir Nabokov's "Good Readers and Good Writers"
  • Michel de Certeau's "Spatial Stories"
  • Frederick Jackson Turner's "The Significance of the Frontier in American History"
  • Excerpts from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
  • Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
  • John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier" speech


The six decades between Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 declaration of the end of the American Frontier and John F. Kennedy’s commitment to a “New Frontier” of outer space mark a unique period of American mobility and exploration. Without a western frontier to conquer or space exploration fully conceivable, what indeed would a nation Turner characterizes by its continual demand for a wider field of exercise do? If the dominant fact of American history is movement, where would one go? The development of an interstate highway system, the increasing popularity of automobile ownership, and the growth of a roadside culture over the first decades of the twentieth century suggest one answer: on the road.

In this course, we will consider the aftermath of the so-called “first age of American history” through the cultural and historical development and representation of road-tripping in the first half of the twentieth century, paying particular attention to its relation to the imaginative fictions of both Hollywood and national identity. Along the way, we'll consider questions like, how these decades between the closed frontier and the new one inform our current understanding of American movement and place. How does the experience of cross-country travel shape our understanding of national or regional identities? How did this period of frontierless movement transition into the Cold War space race of the latter half of the twentieth century? And what are its present-day legacies?

But the central aim of this course is to develop and refine critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills. While we will continue to work on mechanics and style, the emphasis in the course will be on how to gather evidence, organize and support claims, engage secondary materials, and ultimately formulate well-researched and well-reasoned arguments for clear, persuasive essays. To that end, this course entails one short diagnostic essay (assigned during the first week of the semester) and three critical essays of increasing length, culminating in a final research paper (~10pgs). Students are also responsible for careful completion of all reading assignments as well as active participation in class discussion and peer review.

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