‘The flashy strings of neon lights unravelled': motoring leisure and the potential for technological sublimity on the Great West Road

Law, Michael John 2014. ‘The flashy strings of neon lights unravelled': motoring leisure and the potential for technological sublimity on the Great West Road. London Journal. 39 (3), pp. 281-294.

Title‘The flashy strings of neon lights unravelled': motoring leisure and the potential for technological sublimity on the Great West Road
AuthorsLaw, Michael John
Abstract

This paper examines the unusual opportunities for motoring leisure provided by the modernistic landscape of the Great West Road in the inter-war period. This suburban arterial road had become ribboned by new Americanized factories, which featured ‘Californian’ white elevations, floodlit at night. This modern roadscape, likened to the ‘great white way of an exhibition’ by John Betjeman, attracted leisure drivers who would cruise the new road, experiencing a sensation of displaced Americanization and modernity. Using David Nye's work on technological sublimity, this paper positions the Great West Road as a special space for driving as a new leisure experience, distancing this period from the exploration of the countryside that typified motoring in the previous decades. The paper uses material from motoring magazines, architectural sources and poetry to explain the nature of this sublimity through leisure driving. Not being California, the juxtaposition of wet British weather and this road could also provide a misty and mysterious driving experience. As the inter-war period drew to a close, some commentators saw this road as tawdry and vulgar.

JournalLondon Journal
Journal citation39 (3), pp. 281-294
ISSN0305-8034
Year2014
PublisherManey
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1179/0305803414Z.00000000053
Publication dates
PublishedNov 2014

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