This seminar will explore the literary and historical significance of the road narrative in twentieth-century American literature and film. We will identify the defining features of the American road narrative and ask how stories of travel, especially automobile travel, have functioned as a forum for examining larger social and cultural issues. As we consider the possibilities and promises represented by travel in these stories, we will also interrogate how race, class, and gender affect the experience of being on the road. While the road might signify freedom and new opportunity for some, for others it is linked with desperation or homelessness. Throughout the course, we will think about the relationship between cultural texts and the historical periods during which they were produced. The ways that the automobile has shaped American cities, landscape, and daily life will be particularly important to us. Many of the texts in the seminar feature movement from East to West that evokes the conquest and settling of the U.S. West, a central component of the founding mythology of the United States. However, we will also contemplate different trajectories in the Americas that question the association between travel and conquest. Authors include Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, and Cormac McCarthy.