Humanities Forum: Jason Vredenburg, “Calling All Cars: The Automobile and the Transformation of Urban Space in Hard-Boiled Detective Novels”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 ( 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324

Humanities Forum: Jason Vredenburg (Teaching Assistant Professor)
“Calling All Cars: The Automobile and the Transformation of Urban Space in Hard-Boiled Detective Novels”

Abstract
While early twentieth century urban space was organized around the railway and the telegraph, the automobile disrupts that social order by making the automotive subject mobile in a way that the surveillance gaze was not—at least until the proliferation of the two-way radio, which made it simple and efficient to coordinate the efforts of police automobiles throughout urban space, thus mobilizing the gaze. Hardboiled detective fiction emerges in this moment of instability, and reacts specifically against classical detective fiction in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, whose methods of detection were consistent with a social order organized around the railroad. As a body of work uniquely attuned to this cultural shift, hardboiled detective fiction's precarious, unstable urban space helps to reveal and explain the evolving relationship between police and public during a period in which new transportation and communication technologies were rapidly transforming local police power and practices. 

Biography
Jason Vredenburg is a Teaching Assistant Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, where he teaches in the Freshman Experience program in the College of Arts and Letters. He holds a Ph.D. In English from the University of Illinois, where he specialized in twentieth-century American Literature and cinema studies. He has published articles in Journal of American Studies and in Pedagogy. His current project examines the intersection of the automobile and communications technology in twentieth-century American literature and film.