Winnebago Nation: The RV in American Cultureby James B. Twitchell
In Winnebago Nation, popular critic James B. Twitchell takes a light-hearted look at the culture and industry behind the yearning to spend the night in one's car. For the young the roadtrip is a coming-of-age ceremony; for those later in life it is the realization of a lifelong desire to be spontaneous, nomadic, and free. Informed by his own experiences on/i>
In Winnebago Nation, popular critic James B. Twitchell takes a light-hearted look at the culture and industry behind the yearning to spend the night in one's car. For the young the roadtrip is a coming-of-age ceremony; for those later in life it is the realization of a lifelong desire to be spontaneous, nomadic, and free. Informed by his own experiences on the road, Twitchell recounts the RV's origins and evolution over the twentieth century; its rise, fall, and rebirth as a cultural icon; its growing mechanical complexity as it evolved from an estate wagon to a converted bus to a mobile home; and its role in bolstering and challenging conceptions of American identity.
Mechanical yet dreamy, independent yet needful, solitary yet clubby, adventurous yet homebound, life in a mobile home is a distillation of the American character and an important embodiment of American exceptionalism, (Richie Rich and Hobo Hank spend time in essentially the same rig at the same campground, albeit for different reasons and in different levels of comfort.) The frontier may be tapped out but we still yearn for the exploratory life. Twitchell concludes with his thoughts on the future of RV communities and the possibility of mobile cities becoming a real part of the American landscape.
Twitchell (Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury) traces the history of recreational vehicles and their archetypal place in American culture. Using an emic anthropological technique, the author studies the people who participate in this subculture by traveling in an RV himself. This methodology allows him to get to know the members of various tribes who have sold everything they own to buy an RV and spend their golden years traveling to faraway places and forming transitory communities along the way. Twitchell addresses the yearning for this lifestyle by examining the power of brand attraction utilized by RV companies to create loyalty and pointing to numerous contemporary media sources to argue that America's fascination with traveling this way hearkens back to westward expansionism. His most pithy argument, however, is that the ultimate romantic road-tripping generation in America is no longer capricious youth in convertible sports cars, but geriatrics crisscrossing the country in lumbering, moveable housing. The conclusion further suggests that they present a reflection of our increasing abilities to work remotely and may truly embody the nomadic nature of our species. VERDICT This work will make even the most skeptical reader appreciate the importance of the RV in American history—no mean feat.—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM
- Columbia University Press
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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Meet the Author
James B. Twitchell taught English and advertising at the University of Florida for many years and is the author of Adcult USA, Lead Us Into Temptation, and Where Men Hide. He has traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard in a small RV with his wife and driven across the Deep South, up to Newfoundland, and all the way to Alaska.
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