Road-Book America: Contemporary Culture and the New Picaresque

Road-Book America: Contemporary Culture and the New Picaresque

by Rowland A Sherrill


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In this wide-ranging and sophisticated study, Rowland Sherrill explores the resurgence and transformation of an old literary form—the picaresque narrative—into a new form that he shows to be both responsive and instructive to late twentieth-century American life.
Road-Book America discloses how the old picaresque tradition, embodied in such novels as Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, opens to include a number of new American texts, both fiction and nonfiction, that decisively share the characterizing form. Sherrill's discussion encompasses hundreds of American narratives published in the past four decades, including such examples of the genre as William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, James Leo Herlihy's Midnight Cowboy, Bill Moyers's Listening to America, and E. L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate.
Sketching the socially marginal, ingenuous, traveling characters common to both old and new versions, Sherrill shows how the "new American picaresque" transforms the satirical aims of the original into an effort to map and catalog the immensity and variety of America.
Open, resilient, perennially hopeful, and endowed with a protean adaptability, the protagonist of the new American picaresque follows a therapeutic path for the alienated modern self. Mining the relevance of the reformulated picaresque for American life, Road-Book America shows how this old form, adaptable as the picaro himself, lays the groundwork for spiritual renewal and a restoration of cultural confidence in some old ways of being American.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252025464
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 03/30/2000
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: The Road Work of the New American Picaresque 1(10)
Part 1: The Literary Work of the New American Picaresque
The Picaresque Old and New: The Question of Continuity
The Picaresque Borrowed and Blue: The Matter of Change
The Picaro in Fiction, the Picaresque in Fact: Blurring Genres
Part 2: The Social Work of the New American Picaresque
The Picaro's Recovery of the Sovereign Self: Road Cures
The Picaro in Social Space: Stranger Still
The Picaro in the Nick of Time: Virtues of the Margin
Part 3: The Cultural Work of the New American Picaresque
Homo Viator, Homo Spectans: Slants on the Size of America
Road Work: Detours into the Renewal of American Meanings
Postmodern Religious Conditions and Picaresque Gifts
Notes 275(66)
Index 341

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