Journey’s End

by Dr. H - November 30th, 2015

We’re in the home stretch of the semester and the course. It’s been a long haul… perfect opportunity to reflect on the importance of long-haul trucking and interstate bus service in the history of the twentieth century American road and the roadside.

Tues 12/1 – we’ll screen parts of a documentary called Big Rig; in preparation, please read John McPhee’s short essay, “Land of the Diesel Bear” (PDF on Blackboard).

Thurs 12/3 – Last Writing Workshop day. Bring both your drafts (third draft for H-Lab #4, second draft for H-Lab #5) for one last session of polishing and refining. Course Reflection survey will be posted on this day, please complete it online.

Tues 12/8 – Course Wrap-Up / Last Day of Class. Screening in class: Freedom Riders American Experience documentary

Wed 12/9 – Reading Day. I invite & encourage you to attend the First Year Showcase to celebrate the achievements and learning of your fellow first-year students.

Writing Packets for both H-Lab #4 and #5 are due Thursday, 12/10 by midnight. Dropoff in the history dept in the mailbox on my door (Sullivan 327D) is fine. Thanks for a great ride and best of luck wherever your academic & geographic travels take you!

Coming Home: Travels with Charley

by Dr. H - November 12th, 2015

For 11/17 and 11/19 we’ll focus on John Steinbeck’s compact, charming account of a cross-country road trip in a converted pickup truck camper named Rocinante, accompanied by his French poodle Charley. The trip was taken in the fall of 1960. Along the way, we’ll talk about what Steinbeck hoped to learn and what he actually did (or didn’t) learn from his travels about himself and his country… and compare his writing style, narrative journey, and degree of realism (fiction? nonfiction? memoir?) in the text to both On the Road and Hell’s Angels.

Tues 11/17 Reading: Parts One and Two

Internet Archive
Life Magazine on Google Books
Billboard Magazine
Time covers

Thurs 11/19 Reading: Parts Three and Four

On Tues 11/24, please bring your current drafts as *printed papers*. You should have a new/updated #4 draft (Memoir paper) and a 2-3 page draft for your #5 (Film) paper that contains a description, overview and/or synopsis of the film – which hopefully, you’ve screened more than once by this time.

Road Bad Boys & Girls

by Dr. H - November 6th, 2015

This week, we look at some real counterculture figures on the American road: bikers and outlaws. Our reading includes two articles that provide cultural critiques of road films as well as one day discussing Hunter S. Thompson‘s 1967 (non?)fiction/memoir “saga,” Hell’s Angels, which takes us straight into some of the nation’s roughest motorcycle gangs in the mid-1960s. It’s long, gritty, rambling, and occasionally outright offensive – and Thompson wrote it that way on purpose, to shock his readers and establish his own uniquely authentic voice. His style came to be called “gonzo journalism.” Although it began as a profile of “outsider culture” in America, ironically, over the course of his research for Hell’s Angels, Thompson himself became something of an insider to the outsider culture of motorcycle gangs.

Tues 11/10 Reading: Laderman, “What a Trip: The Road Film and American Culture” and Eraso, “Thelma and Louise: ‘Easy Riders’ in a Male Genre” (PDFs on Blackboard). We’ll screen some clips from The Wild One (1953), Easy Rider (1969), and Thelma and Louise (1991). We’ll be looking at how to read a film as a historic text, analyzing film sequences and filmic storytelling and how this differs from storytelling in print. How do films establish narrative? What kinds of history can we get from films? What can we learn about road culture, fears about violence and lawlessness, or rootlessness of the same generation as Kerouac but taken in a very different direction?

Thurs 11/12 Reading: Hell’s Angels, everyone read “Roll ‘Em Boys” and Postscript, and then remember to read the chapters on either side of your assigned chapter.

Image credit: Leonard Smalls, the “Lone Biker of the Apocalypse,” from Raising Arizona

On the Road, Revised

by Dr. H - October 27th, 2015

The syllabus has changed! Modified syllabus is now linked in the sidebar, and also on Blackboard. The new pages 3 and 5 replace the old ones.

We’ll now take longer to read & discuss On the Road, and the writing assigment #4 has been changed to “How to Read a Memoir” and can potentially include either or both of our next two books, Hell’s Angels and Travels With Charley. Please note the revised due dates for the various parts / stages of the project, which is running concurrently with writing assignment #5, “How to Read a Film.”

Download guidelines and schedule for #4 – #5

Thurs 10/22 – Kerouac, On the Road, Part 1
Tues 10/27 – Kerouac, On the Road, Part 2
Thurs 10/29 – Kerouac, On the Road, Part 3 – Google Doc
Tues 11/3 – Kerouac, On the Road, Part 4 & 5

Thurs 11/5 – Writing Workshop Day

#4 Bring your 3-5 page draft (#4 D.1) as a printed paper for peer review & discussion with me (5 points)
#5 Turn in your film choice & have a clear plan for obtaining and viewing your chosen film

Road Bad Boy 1: Kerouac, On the Road

by Dr. H - October 21st, 2015

Kerouac'sTypewriterFor the next three class sessions we are discussing Kerouac’s iconic road trip novel, On the Road.

Thurs 10/22 – Part One
Tues 10/27 – Part Two
Thurs 10/29 – Parts Three & Four – see revised schedule, above

You’ll be analyzing the novel as a historical (not just a fictional / literary) text, and [possibly] choosing some aspect of it to write about for your History Lab #4

Some helpful links:

Music mentioned in the text: Lullaby of Birdland, Slim Gaillard, 1940s “bebop jazz” e.g. Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon & Wardell Gray “The Hunt.”

Gilbert Millstein’s book review of On the Road in the New York Times, 5 Sept 1957

Various NPR stories about the novel & its mystique

Interactive maps for the novel

A “beat-obsessed” blog called The Daily Beat

In the Kerouac Archive,” Atlantic, Nov 1998

Excerpts from JK’s journals, edited by Douglas Brinkley, published in the New Yorker, June 1998

Local interest in Lowell – Kerouac memorial walks and events in his own hometown

(photo of Jack Kerouac’s Underwood typewriter courtesy of The Lone Cypress blog)

10/13 – 10/20 Two Lane Blacktop, Family Vacation

by Dr. H - October 13th, 2015

Tues 10/13 – we will be screening (most of) the 1971 road film Two Lane Blacktop in class. Prepare by reading the Film Quarterly review posted on Blackboard.

Thurs 10/15 – The Golden Age of Family Vacations. Reading: make a first pass through the entire (short, picture-heavy) book Family Vacation. 51YmSuFtJlL._AC_UL115_Dr. Rugh is a scholar of 20th-century tourism who wrote a scholarly book titled Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of Family Vacations (University of Kansas, 2008) and in her research she encountered many of these nostalgic images (maps, photographs, postcards, advertisements) and compiled them into the volume we’ll be reading. For Thursday’s class, choose a few images to discuss with your classmates.

Tues 10/20 Golden Age of Family Vacations, Part II. Reading: Make a second pass through the Rugh book. Design and conduct a STUDY of some dimension of her primary sources: quantitative, aesthetic, ideological, iconographic, rhetorical, or any other creative method you can devise. Be ready to report on your METHOD and FINDINGS in Tuesday’s class – I will call on some people to present, but everyone should be ready to be called on.

Week of 10/6 – Reading Scholarly Articles

by Dr. H - October 3rd, 2015

This week, we’re tackling a particular genre of college-level reading: scholarly articles.

On Tuesday 10/6, please meet (with your laptops) in the Student Center Blue Lounge, instead of in our regular classroom. I’ll collect your History Lab #2 paper there. We will learn about some of the online library resources from the library director, Matt Bejune, and you’ll choose one on a course-related topic for the History Lab #3 assignment. Note that you are able to print your articles for free in the library itself from the terminals installed there.

For Thursday 10/8, please bring a PRINTOUT of your article with you to class, where we will be working with how to tackle, deconstruct, understand, and write about them.

Thurs 10/1 Okie / Migrant Mother Links

by Dr. H - October 1st, 2015

Links for today:

Migrant Mother

HC video


American Memory search terms
Dust Bowl
Refugee families
Holtville, Imperial Valley California
Metal shelters
Migrant workers
Migrant pickers
On the road
Oklahoma migrant
Refugee camp
Squatter camp
Auto camp

Week of 9/28: Primary Source Texts & Images

by Dr. H - September 25th, 2015

Slight modification to the syllabus:

For Tues 9/29 Reading: 1) Brown, “Route 66” (PDF on Blackboard) and 2) Hamilton’s Itinerarium (PDF on Blackboard). Try applying the techniques, questions, and critical thinking skills to Hamilton’s document from the handout I provided on Thursday. For those who missed Thursday’s class, the handout was the text slides from this presentation:


Thurs 10/1 Workshop Day: How to Read a Photograph, using Okies on the Mother Road as a case study

Some of the most iconic American images of traveling and roadside life come from displaced migrants of the Great Depression in the 1930s, in part because of the efforts of New Deal documentarians from the Works Progress Administration, the Farm Security Administration, and (a little later) the Office of Wartime Information. We’ll use some of this material to explore how to read a photograph or a visual image (such as posters or advertisements) as a historical text. Our online sources are the photographs from the New Deal Network, and the Library Of Congress/FSA-OWI. During this workshop, take a look at these two collections and get familiar with how to use them and search within them. We’ll be using some of the images that display roadside culture of migrants, refugees, and Okies in the 1930s as the primary sources for History Lab #2.

Early American Travels

by Dr. H - September 18th, 2015

This week we will look at two travel narratives from early America. The first is the famous journals of Lewis and Clark‘s Corps of Discovery and their 2-year journey across the continent in search of a Northwest water passage (1804-1806). The second is is the 1744 trip–by boat, and by rather primitive roads–of Dr. Alexander Hamilton (not to be confused with the Alexander Hamilton, man on the $20 bill, Jefferson’s Secretary of Treasury, who was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. That’s a completely different guy), a young physician rambling alone with a keen eye to the Eastern seaboard world and a keen ear for the many accents and languages he encounters there.

We’ll use both of these as case studies for how to approach a primary source: the raw material of historical analysis. Also we consider the literary conventions in travel writing, and how these writers (and many others) narrate journeys across America–and how we remember, memorialize and mythologize such journeys.

Tues 9/22 Bring laptops – you’ll get assigned a portion of the Lewis and Clark journals in class, and we’ll talk about how to search within and analyze these sources. [H-Lab #1 due – email it by classtime]

Lewis and Clark homework document for Thurs 9/24

Thurs 9/24 Read Hamilton’s Itinerarium of 1744 (PDF – also posted on Blackboard) and bring it to class either as a printout or on your laptop/device. The word “Itinerarium” recalls ancient Roman road schemas, e.g. the Peutinger Table.

Just for fun, I mapped the Hamilton Itinerarium excerpts we have onto Google maps so you can see where his travels took him. Surprisingly, most of the place names he mentions have survived to the present. Notice anything about his route?