Women on the Run in North America  (Panel / In-Person)

Special Session
Gender and Sexuality / Cultural Studies

Ania Wroblewski (University of Guelph)
awro@****.com (Log-in to reveal)

This session explores Post-War road narratives by women, written in English, French, Spanish or Indigenous languages, that present fictionalized accounts of journeys across North America. Charting out a comparative, multi-ethnic, intersectional, and feminist counter-history to the American road narrative tradition allows us to envision North America not only as a continent made up of sovereign nations and dependent territories, a vast landform etched with borders, but also as a landmass traversed from North to South, East to West, by women on the quest for independence, solidarity, recognition, and freedom.

American road narratives as well as Québécois “roman de la route” are two widely accepted and primarily masculine literary genres that have left an imprint on how travel through North America (especially vehicular travel) has been described, envisioned, and even daydreamed about since the 1950s. By complicating dominant representations of the road, this session aims to undermine the macho foundations of conquest, privilege, speed, and destiny upon which this discourse is built, tarnishing, in some respects, the inherent romanticism road trip narratives inspire. The aims of this session are twofold. Firstly, this session aims to identify how accepted notions of citizenship and sovereignty are questioned in female-authored representations of women who are either literally or metaphorically “on the run” in North America. For this reason, it is essential this session be comparative and multi-ethnic with a wide time range and scope, and a multi-lingual, feminist, and intersectional approach. Secondly, this session strives to investigate the gendered knowledge and experience that is gained from journeys through North American space, ecologies, and landscapes. How have female-authored road narratives evolved since the 1950s? What means of travel are privileged by women? What inspires female travelers to leave their places of origin? Where are they running to? What specific relationship do they have to the land upon which they travel? How do their personal pasts, histories, gender identifications, and backgrounds impact the way they navigate the physical and literary terrain?