“Stationary Trivialities”: Contrasting Representations of the American Motel in Vladimir Nabokov and Jack Kerouac

Part of the Studies in Mobilities, Literature, and Culture book series (SMLC)


This chapter analyses contrasting approaches to representing the American motel in two emblematic postwar road novels, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957). As well as analysing, through Kerouac, the counterculture’s lack of regard for the commercial landscape of the highway, the chapter contributes to the recent opening of mobilities studies to the humanities by proposing a reading of Lolita as ethnography of the American roadside, one to have anticipated the works of postmodern spatial theorists. ‘Stationary Trivialities’ concludes with a case study of Stanley Kubrick’s (Lolita. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Los Angeles, 1962) adaptation of the novel as counterexample to Nabokov’s émigré perspective on the American vernacular.


  1. Appel, Alfred. 1974. Nabokov’s Dark Cinema. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Augé, Marc. 1995. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1982 [1975]. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brigham, Anne. 2015. American Road Narratives. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bowlby, Rachel. 1993. “Lolita and the Poetry of Advertising.” In Shopping with Freud. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Chilvers, Ian, and John Glaves-Smith. 2009. A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Foucault, Michel. 1997 [1984]. “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” In Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, edited by Neil Leach, 350–356. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Hannam, Kevin, Mimi Sheller, and John Urry. 2006. “Editorial: Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings.” Mobilities 1 (1): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jakle, John A., Keith A. Sculle, and Jefferson S. Rogers. 1996. The Motel in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jameson, Fredric. 2007 [1990]. Signatures of the Visible. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Kerouac, Jack. 2000 [1957]. On the Road. New Edition. New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  12. Kubrick, Stanley. 1962. Lolita. Los Angeles: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.Google Scholar
  13. Merriman, Peter, and Lynne Pearce. 2017. Mobility and the Humanities. Mobilities 12 (4): 493–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mills, Katie. 2006. The Road Story and the Rebel: Moving Through Film, Fiction, and Television. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Nabokov, Vladimir. 1965. Interview with Robert Hughes: Emended Typescript with Author’s Manuscript Corrections. Vladimir Nabokov Papers, Berg Collection, New York Public Library.Google Scholar
  16. Nabokov, Vladimir. 2000 [1970]. The Annotated Lolita. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  17. Nabokov, Vladimir. 2009. The Original of Laura: Dying Is Fun. New York: Knopf Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  18. Nabokov, Vladimir. 2012a. Plays: Lolita, a Screenplay: The Tragedy of Mister Morn. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  19. Nabokov, Vladimir. 2012b [1973]. Strong Opinions. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  20. Nabokov, Vladimir. 2013. Collected Poems. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  21. Rodway, Cara. 2010. “Roadside Romance? The American Motel in Postwar Popular Culture.” PhD dissertation, King’s College London.Google Scholar
  22. Shaffer, Marguerite S. 2001. See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880–1940. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.Google Scholar
  23. Treadwell, Sarah. 2005. The Motel: An Image of Elsewhere. Space and Culture 8 (2): 214–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK

Personalised recommendations