Promises and Perils of the Road: Female Mobility in American Women’s Road Narratives since 1970

Krishna, Swathi and Chatterjee, Srirupa (2017) Promises and Perils of the Road: Female Mobility in American Women’s Road Narratives since 1970. PhD thesis, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.

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This thesis focuses on literary road narratives published since 1970 by contemporary American woman writers to examine how the trope of female mobility, which is often viewed as a liberating and empowering experience, calls for a realistic re-evaluation such that it is interpreted as an act of tremendous courage and resilience. The trope of female road travel in American fiction, while examined by some researchers in the past as quest romances and emancipatory sagas, remains considerably unexplored with regard to the hardships and dangers that befall female travelers; and hence seeks scholarly intervention. In addition, an exploration of how fictional travelling women by crafting female alliances, adopting roles of nurturers, and resorting to emotional strength surmount the challenges posed by the road has surprisingly eluded critical attention. Accordingly, the objective of this study is to examine select American road novels which represent female mobility as acts of both subversion and identity formation and underscore how wayfaring women while exploring and expanding their consciousness also challenge and often survive the perils they face on the road. Divided into four thematic chapters, this study begins by outlining the emergence of the female wayfarer in American fiction. Having historicized the advent of the independent female quester in the road genre, this study critically examines three defining road novels published through the feminist seventies, namely, Fear of Flying, Earthly Possessions and Heading West which vocalize the emancipatory rhetoric characterizing America’s gender revolutions and advocate female mobility while also highlighting the vulnerabilities of women travelers. The discussion then proceeds to examine novels such as Housekeeping, Anywhere but Here, The Bean Trees and its sequel Pigs in Heaven that represent nurturing wayfarers and female bonding, and attest to the conservatism and maturing feminist consciousness of the eighties and nineties while showcasing the female experience of the road. Finally, this thesis examines three post-millennial road novels, namely, The Lovely Bones, Rape: A Love Story, and So Much Pretty which, while celebrating female mobility, also stridently criticize the dangers that beleaguer solo female travelers. In conclusion, this study, with the help fictional road narratives, reiterates that female journeys are not simply blissful endeavors toward deliverance but entail sacrifice, persistence and resilience.

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IITH Creators:
IITH CreatorsORCiD
Chatterjee, Srirupa
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Social sciences > Sociology
Divisions: Department of Liberal Arts
Depositing User: Team Library
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2017 10:05
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2019 06:26
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