Lynne Pearce – Rethinking the road

Friday November 6, 2020
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Rethinking the Road: Autoethnography, Memory and Transient Landscapes

An online talk by:
Dr. Lynne Pearce
Professor, Lancaster University Department of English and Creative Writing

*co-sponsored by the UBC Migration Mobilities Group and the UBC Public Humanities Hub

Friday, November 6, 2020
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (PST)

[ Abstract ]
In 2000 I published a book chapter, ‘Driving North/Driving South’, which included a first-person description of one the many journeys I was then making between my parents’ home in Cornwall, my ‘work home’ (Lancaster), and what was quickly to become my principal, and permanent, home in Scotland. The chapter coincided with the establishment of the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University and was cited quite widely by colleagues who had begun working on automobilities.

Ten years later, I resumed my work on driving (culminating in Drivetime (2016)) and am now beginning work on a new project investigating how Britain’s roads and roadscapes have changed over the past 20 years from the perspective of its users. The paper I would like to share with you here is a pilot for this project. Entitled ‘Driving North/Driving South Reprised’, it centres on a recent (2019) journey ’home’ to Cornwall which I compare and contrast with the one I made in 1999. My discussion is concerned not only with the changes that have impacted on the roads and the driving experience during that 20 year period, but also how road users themselves register change; what we see, what we don’t, and how the flux maps onto our own life-histories. This is then folded into a wider argument about the methodological challenge of documenting transient landscapes (a concern first flagged up by contemporary archaeologists such as Seffryn Penrose (Images of Change, 2007)), and how their ephemerality impacts upon the individuals and communities whose lives depend upon them in different ways. In the course of this debate I shall make the case for why autoethnography and textual analysis are perhaps the only available methods for accessing the complex perceptions, memories and emotions associated with this order of change.

The talk will be framed by a short, preliminary discussion of mobility and the humanities as an important new subfield within mobilities scholarship including some personal reflections on why it is still proving difficult to get literary scholars working of mobility themes to engage with the mobilities research that has emanated from the social sciences.