English | Projects in Reading & Writing: The Freedom of the Road
W170 | 29532 | Jankowski

TOPIC:	The Freedom of the Road: American Identity and the Automobile
INSTRUCTOR:  Harmony Jankowski

29532		MWF		9:05A – 9:55A		PY 115

Though reliance upon them is often reviled in this era of
fluctuating gas prices, automobiles have a privileged place in
American literature, film, and music. These vehicles that move
millions from place to place everyday are often made to stand in for
other types of mobility, as well. This course will explore the
relationship created in cultural texts between automobiles, physical
mobility and cultural mobility. As status symbols, the right car can
show that one has “arrived,” signifying the ability to transcend
one’s own circumstances, as well as the relationship between horse-
power and power, more generally. We will also focus our attention on
the driver, in terms of the all-American rite of passage of getting
the driver’s license and the freedom it implies as the child moves
into adulthood, as well as racecar drivers and the ways in which
their speed, wealth, and general freedom of movement is valorized
within American culture. Throughout the semester, the course will
address the following questions: What is the relationship between
the automobile and American identity? How is the automobile made to
stand for cultural mobility (across boundaries traditionally
maintained between races, classes, genders, etc.)? Under what
circumstances does the driver become a cultural hero?
This course will move through three papers that explore the
relationship between Americanness and the automobile as it is
represented in novels such as The Great Gatsby, On the Road, as well
as the recent film Talladega Nights, among other texts. Leading up
to each of these papers will be a series of shorter assignments that
will give students ample opportunities to practice the analytical
strategies we practice throughout the semester.

This course fulfills the English Composition requirement.