ABOUT THIS BOOKA Road Course in Early American Literature: Travel and Teaching from Atzlán to Amherst
explores a two-part question: what does travel teach us about literature, and how can reading guide us to a deeper understanding of place and identity? Thomas Hallock charts a teacher’s journey to answering these questions, framing personal experiences around the continued need for a survey course covering early American literature up to the mid-nineteenth century.
Hallock approaches literary study from the overlapping perspectives of pedagogue, scholar, unrepentant tourist, husband, father, friend, and son. Building on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s premise that there is “creative reading as well as creative writing,” Hallock turns to the vibrant and accessible tradition of American travel writing, employing the form of biblio-memoir to bridge the impasse between public and academic discourse and reintroduce the dynamic field of early American literature to wider audiences.
Hallock’s own road course begins and ends at the Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina, following a circular structure of reflection. He weaves his journey through a wide swath of American literatures and authors: from Native American and African American oral traditions, to Wheatley and Equiano, through Emerson, Poe, and Dickinson, among others. A series of longer, place-oriented narratives explore familiar and lesser-known literary works from the sixteenth-century invasion of Florida through the Mexican War of 1846–1848 and the American Civil War. Shorter chapters bridge the book’s central themes—the mapping of cognitive and physical space, our personal stake in reading, the tensions that follow earlier acts of erasure, and the impossibility of ever fully shutting out the past.
Exploring complex cultural histories and contemporary landscapes filled with ghosts and new voices, this volume draws inspiration from a tradition of travel, place-oriented, and literature-based works ranging from William Carlos Williams’s In the American Grain
and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
to Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens
, Wendy Lesser’s Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
, and Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch
An accompanying bibliographic essay is periodically updated and available at Hallock’s website: www.roadcourse.us