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Writing the Heavenly Frontier

Metaphor, Geography, and Flight Autobiography in America 1927-1954

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Denice Turner

Writing the Heavenly Frontier celebrates the early voices of the air as it examines the sky as a metaphorical and political landscape. While flight histories usually focus on the physical dangers of early aviation, this book introduces the figurative liabilities of ascension. Early pilot-writers not only grappled with an unwieldy machine; they also grappled with poetics that were extremely selective. Tropes that cast Charles Lindbergh as the transcendent hero of the new millennium were the same ones that kept women, black Americans, and indigenous peoples imaginatively tethered to the ground. The most popular flight autobiographies in the United States posited a hero who rose from the mundane to the miraculous; and yet the most startling autobiographies point out the social factors that limited or forbade vertical movement—both literally and figuratively. A survey of pilot writing, the book will appeal to flight enthusiasts and people interested in American autobiography and culture. But it will also appeal strongly to readers interested in the poetics and politics of place.