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Literary Excursions in Automotive Consciousness

Lynne Pearce

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Engages literary texts in order to theorise the distinctive cognitive and affective experiences of driving

What sorts of things do we think about when we’re driving – or being driven – in a car? Drivetime seeks to answer this question by drawing upon a rich archive of British and American texts from ‘the motoring century’ (1900-2000), paying particular attention to the way in which the practice of driving shapes and structures our thinking. While recent sociological and psychological research has helped explain how drivers are able to think about ‘other things’ while performing such a complex task, little attention has, as yet, been paid to the form these cognitive and affective journeys take. Pearce uses her close readings of literary texts – ranging from early twentieth-century motoring periodicals, Modernist and inter-war fiction , American ‘road-trip’ classics , and autobiography – in order to model different types of ‘driving-event’ and, by extension, the car’s use as a means of phenomenological encounter, escape from memory, meditation, problem-solving and daydreaming.

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1. Theorising Automotive Consciousness
2. Searching
3. Fleeing
4. Cruising
5. Flying

About the Author

Lynne Pearce is Professor of Literary Theory and Women’s Writing at the University of Lancaster. She has published widely in the field of literary and cultural theory, with particular interests in: feminist reader-theory (Woman/Image/Text (1991), Reading Dialogics (1994), Feminism and the Politics of Reading (1997), The Rhetorics of Feminism (1997); romance theory (Romance Writing, 2007); and mobilities research (Devolving Identities (ed.) (2000), Postcolonial Manchester (co-authored: 2013) Drivetime (2016). She is also Director of Humanities at the Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster.


This landmark book traces the emergence of automotive consciousness, combining auto-ethnographic reflection, literary analysis and cultural theory to examine the unfolding of the ‘driving-event’ in the 20th century. Drawing upon literary theory, cultural studies, human geography, psychology and sociology, it is an important addition to the inter-disciplinary field of mobility studies.

- Peter Merriman, Aberystwyth University

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