Consuming Landscapes: What We See When We Drive and Why It Matters

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Consuming Landscapes: What We See When We Drive and Why It Matters. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022. doi:10.1353/book.103002


What do we see when we drive? For better or worse, windshields have become a major frame for viewing the nonhuman world. The view from the road is one of the major ways in which Americans and Europeans experience their environments. Rather than accidental, however, these prospects are the results of historical forces. Humans shaped them as they sought to be transformed by them. Automotive vistas speak to visions of society and nations, the role of consumerism, and ideas about reshaping the environment in the twentieth century. This book breaks new ground by systematically understanding the driving experience and the history of landscaped roads in the United States and Germany, two major automotive countries in the 20th century. Driving, a quotidian, if sometimes dangerous, activity by the late 20th century, emerged from its status as an anti-railroad, escapist moment in the early 20th century to a supposedly restorative, yet regimented, act by the 1920s and 1930s. Immersing oneself in the landscape while driving reflected the desire to reconnect technology with nature. Or so the designers of these roads claimed. Increasing numbers of consumers, however, preferred predictable over prescriptive roads.