Remembrance of Things Imagined: Urban Development and the Fictions of Memory

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This article reflects on two recent contributions to the field of literary and cultural studies: Mark Storey's Rural Fictions, Urban Realities: A Geography of Gilded Age American Literature and Eric Avila's The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City. These texts investigate how material transformations of natural and urban landscapes are mediated in nineteenth-century rural US literature and contemporary urban cultural practices. For many of the novelists in Storey's study, modernization and urban development are the condition not only for the disruption of older, residual modes of community, but also for the disruption of generic categories and styles of writing. For the literary and visual artists in Avila's monograph, the massive, postwar highway-building program that he considers produced diverse acts of historical recovery that were reflected across a range of artistic practices and strategies that rose in response. The article concludes by using Storey's and Avila's contributions to begin to think through how acts of historical recovery are actually historical fictions or retroactive invented traditions, which when they are monologic and filled with their own erasures of history succumb to nostalgia or urban pastoralism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-222
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Literary History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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