Defining Highways: Regionalism, Routes and Circuits in American Road Literature

Andrew Edward Daigle, University of Colorado at Boulder


“Defining Highways” exhibits how twentieth-century migration texts combined with actual highway development to produce unique regionalist narratives – of homesteaders, blues and folk touring circuits, seasonal laborers, restless youth, and border cultures – that helped shift popular understandings of life in transit or on the road to that of mainstream experience, not just life at its margins. By exploring ways in which highways direct cultural production and how literature, music, and film may be read as guides to roadways, this dissertation argues that the roadscape – the phenomenon whereby a local setting is imagined through the character of its prevailing routes – is informed by both its representative fictions and the ever-present possibility of departure from the familiar and local.