In the Driver's Seat: The Automobile in American Literature and Popular Culture

In the Driver's Seat: The Automobile in American Literature and Popular Culture

In the Driver's Seat: The Automobile in American Literature and Popular Culture

In the Driver's Seat: The Automobile in American Literature and Popular Culture

Synopsis

"The sometimes ill-defined area of American studies can surely use a book of this content and quality. Dettelbach writes with considerable skill in revealing the ways in which the cultural manifestations of modern American society reflect our fascination for, and relationship with, the automobile.... This is a timely book, with enough substance to recommend it to American studies and popular culture library collections." - Choice

Excerpt

A few years ago I taught a course entitled "The Machine That Got Away." The course attracted a large number of aspiring engineers, and their interest in machines, together with mine in literature, resulted in an exciting dialogue on the impact of technology on modern culture. Out of that teaching experience came the idea for this book.

Since technology per se involved too broad a topic, I decided to concentrate on just one machine. It had to be a machine with which I and most Americans had personal, firsthand experience; it had to affect us in a major way and repeatedly appear, both in a real and symbolic capacity, in American literature and popular culture. Obviously, the machine that best fit all three criteria was the automobile. And from obvious insights, it is hoped, not so obvious books evolve.

What first evolved was a staggering collection of references. They proliferated like the proverbial cars on the highway, and I was constantly having to cut back. Among the important works of literature I was unable to include, for example, were: Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons; William Faulkner Sartoris and Sanctuary; Sinclair Lewis' Dodsworth and Babbit; Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy; and Arthur Miller's The Death of a Salesman. Others I could only mention in passing.

To return to the book I did write, I am indebted to so many people for their assistance: to Cathi Campbell, who typed the . . .

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