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Dr Myka Tucker-Abramson, Humboldt Research Fellowship

On the Road to Collapse

Dr Myka Tucker-Abramson's Fellowship "On the Road to Collapse" examines a materialist theory of the “road novel.” Most accounts of the road novel describe the genre as reflecting the experience of driving or essential American characteristics - seeking exploration and adventure, and often ambitious, rebellious or countercultural.

Dr Tucker-Abramson challenges these accounts, by reading the road novel as a fraught cultural field that stitched together earlier visions of Manifest Destiny and dominant Popular Front cultural forms to an emergent oil-driven modernity, propelling an expanding US empire.

On The Road to Collapse starts in the 1950s. It tracks the transformation of automobile narratives from the diffuse, experimental, and internationalist genres associated with hobo narratives, naturalist migration novels, and expressionist accounts of automotive urbanism into this new, recognisable genre.

The genre is emblematised by novels such as Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road", Patricia Highsmith’s "The Price of Salt", and William Burroughs’ "Naked Lunch".

Tucker-Abramson argues that the road novel became a particularly powerful, and eventually global genre because of its unique ability to project the seductive imagery of a new, US backed urban modernity that could unite working-class rebellious subjects with the privatised, entrepreneurial Cold War subject.

On The Road to Collapse starts in the 1950s and tracks the transformation of automobile narratives

The road novel became a powerful global genre because of its unique ability to project the seductive imagery of a new, US backed urban modernity

On the Road to Collapse asks how and why this new genre re-emerged and was refigured at key moments when the political and infrastructural regimes of the 1950s entered into crisis - particularly the so-called oil shock of the 1970s and the 2008 financial crisis?

Through her Fellowship, Dr Tucker-Abramson examines how and why novelists as diverse as Samuel Delany, Rudy Wurlitzer, Joan Didion, Octavia Butler, Erika Lopez, Chris Kraus, Jesmyn Ward, Cormac McCarthy, Valeria Luiselli, Gina Apostol and Alia Trabucco Zerán, have turned to the road novel to unearth the geographies and histories of American Empire, and asks what is required - or if it’s even possible - to imagine a road novel against Empire?

 

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