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Road Story and the Rebel

Road Story and the Rebel

Moving Through Film, Fiction, and Television

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Katie Mills


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
288 pages, 6 x 9, 20 illustrations


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About the Book

In The Road Story and the Rebel: Moving Through Film, Fiction, and Television, Beat studies scholar Katie Mills examines how road stories, which have offered declarations of independence to generations of rebellious Americans, have been transformed by media, technology, and social movements. The genre, which includes literature, films, television shows, and several types of digital media, has evolved, says Mills, as each new generation questions its own identity and embraces the thrill of “automobility” (autonomy and mobility) thus providing audiences a means to consider radically altered notions of independence, even as the genre cycles between innovation and commodification.

This cultural history reveals the unique qualities of road stories and follows the evolution from the Beats’ postwar literary adventures to today’s postmodern reality television shows. Tracing the road story as it moves to both LeRoi Jones’s critique of the Beats’ romanticization of blacks as well as to the mainstream in the 1960s with CBS’s Route 66, Mills also documents the rebel subcultures of novelist Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, who used film and LSD as inspiration on a cross-country bus trip, and she examines the sexualization of male mobility and biker mythology in the films Scorpio Rising,The Wild Angels, and Easy Rider. Mills addresses how the filmmakers of the 1970s—Coppola, Scorsese, and Bogdanovich—flourished in New Hollywood with road films that reflected mainstream audiences and how feminists Joan Didion and Betty Friedan subsequently critiqued them. A new generation of women and minority storytellers gain clout and bring genre remapping to the national consciousness, Mills explains, as the road story evolves from such novels as Song of Solomon to films like Thelma and Louise and television’s Road Rules 2.

The Road Story and the Rebel, which includes twenty illustrations, effectively explores the cultural significance of sixty years of rebellion in film, literature, television, and digital media. Spanning media platforms and marginalized communities, the text offers new interpretations of canonical works and reintroduces forgotten works, revealing the genre to be more political and philosophical than previously understood.


Katie Mills is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of English Writing at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She has published essays on the Beat generation and the alternative youth culture in a number of journals and books.


Katie Mills makes connections that illuminate the material for today’s readers as well as the future generations who will come to Beat literature looking for answers of their own. This is an important book— read it!”—Ann Charters, author of Kerouac: A Biography

“Katie Mills offers a confident and sweeping overview of texts fully grounded in their historical and cultural contexts. Her expansive view retrieves some neglected texts and makes genuine contributions to our understanding of the post–World War II American road narrative.”—Corey K. Creekmur, University of Iowa

“The Road Story and the Rebel contains some of the best discussion of road movies I have ever read, taking on at once fiction and nonfiction prose, film, TV, music, and the Internet. Katie Mills historicizes a half century of road phenomena, looks closely at socioeconomic and cultural developments, and argues convincingly that the genre has remained important at least in part because of its skill in moving from being a subculture into the mainstream and then successfully and vibrantly back.”—Ronald Primeau, author of Romance of the Road: The Literature of the American Highway