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Route 66: An America Myth?

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Eilidh Hall

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of Route 66: An America Myth?

Route 66: An American Myth?
"(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66"
Nat King Cole
Route 66: The Mother Road
“It has never been just a road; it’s always been an idea of the road” (Wood, 78)

“Going down the road, symbolized not only a way out, a going to and a getting away from, it represented possibility, risk and romance” (Eyerman and Lofgren, 57)

"Let's keep going."
What is particularly American about Route 66?
Synecdoche: A figure by which a more comprehensive term is used for a less comprehensive or vice versâ.
With this in mind:

“Why has 66 turned out to be more interesting to so many as a downgraded, abandoned, or disappeared highway than it was as a functioning strip of pavement?” (Nodleman, 172)
Romancing the Road
“This spontaneous impulse, which… is pre-programmed and builds on a cultural matrix that has been created through exposure to generations of American writers, artists, musicians, film-makers and advertising agents” (Eyerman & Lofgren, 53)

Easy Rider (1969)
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939)
Read this section of chapter 12

What is Route 66 for these characters?

How does it vary from other Road Literature that you know of?
Barthes and Myth
Myth as (bourgeoisie) Ideology:  Myth is a construction of the ruling classes which reflects the dominant ideologies in society, consequently helping to maintain the hegemonic social order.

It is a method constructed and ‘naturalised’ by dominant groups that the rest of society uses to interpret reality. A myth is created when "linguistic, visual, and other kinds of sign are used not simply to denote something, but also to trigger a range of connotations attached to the sign" (Bignell 1997: 16). "The bringing together of signs and their connotations to shape a particular message’ allow for the creation of myth which is most effective when it seems natural or common sense." (Bignell 1997: 21)
Denotations & Connotations
Denotation refers to the literal meaning encoded in a sign, image or word.

Connotation relates to the cultural meanings attached to a sign, an image, or a word. Or “Cultural Myths and Second Order signs”
What do you see?
Barthes: Myth & Semiotics
Together they describe the relationship between the signifier and its signified.

The signified can operate on two levels of signification: the primary level, that is, the most commonly accepted signified (black French boy); and a secondary level of signification - the 'other' signifieds that we come to culturally accept (patriotism, implications of colonialism)

Semiotics: The study of signs and symbols.
A semiotic analysis allows for the examination of images, gestures and objects as well as the complex associations which accompany them.
Simulation and Simulacra
Cars (2006)
Tow Mater in Galena, Kansas
“Road narratives do not depict route 66 so much as they play an important role in creating it” (Nodleman, 165)

Simulation: reproductions of historical sites and experiences, such as refurbished gas stations and nostalgic performances (Wood, 67)

Simulacra: “images referring to other images with no underlying reality” (Wood, 74)
In what ways is Route 66 a useful lens through which to read American culture and American history?
Visual postcards: America in Norwich
Do we see myth functioning in these representations of American culture?
Next week:
American mythologies: Disneyland
Office hours:
Arts 1.40

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