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2009 News Releases

Longwood English professor to speak on NASCAR’s role in American culture

October 29, 2009

John Miller John Miller, assistant professor of early American literature at Longwood University

John Miller, assistant professor of early American literature at Longwood University, will speak Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in Longwood's Chichester Science Center G12 on "Becoming a Citizen of NASCAR Nation: Toyota, Stock Car Racing, and American Culture in an Era of Globalization."

Miller is a longtime racing fan who wrote his master's thesis on NASCAR. The topic of his upcoming talk, part of the Faculty Colloquium Series, evolved from a collection of essays on motorsports that he is co-editing.

"Why do 75 million Americans enjoy watching cars go in circles," he said. "NASCAR's primary appeal is rooted not in technology or on-track competition but in membership in a subculture that celebrates traditional American values in an era of globalization. The ways these ideals are symbolically affirmed and the ways corporate sponsors capitalize upon them help explain not only the growth of the 'NASCAR Nation,' but also how the rest of the United States is responding to an age of rapid economic and social transformation."

He and Mark Howell, professor of communications at Northwestern Michigan College, are co-editing a collection titled American Speed: Motorsports and American Culture, which is being revised and which they hope to publish. Miller's master's thesis, at Auburn University, was titled "NASCAR and its Southern Simulacrum," which he said is about "the history that NASCAR tells about itself."

Miller first became interested in NASCAR when he was a neighbor, in Virginia Beach, of the brother of now-retired racecar driver Ricky Rudd. "I followed it casually for a while," he said, "then I became more interested as I got older and had a friend who was assistant editor of a racing publication, for which I did some freelance work. I attended some races, then I became even more interested when I took a class in cultural studies in Auburn. The class, which led me to choose the topic of my thesis, showed me that you can approach popular culture in an academic way, and it helped me to understand what culture means to other aspects of American life, including politics and economics."

A Virginia Beach native, Miller started teaching at Longwood in fall 2009 after earning a Ph.D. in American studies from the College of William & Mary. His academic specialty is Colonial and antebellum Southern literature, and his dissertation was titled "Buck-Horned Snakes and Possum Women: Non-White Folklore, Antebellum Southern Literature, and Interracial Cultural Exchange."

The Faculty Colloquium Series showcases outstanding faculty research and gives faculty members an opportunity to share research with the university community. One faculty member is chosen for the fall semester and one for the spring.