'"As the road leads cursed and charmed": the disappointed traveller in Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira.''

Charnock, Ruth (2014) '"As the road leads cursed and charmed": the disappointed traveller in Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira.''. In: EMP Pop Music Conference, 2014, 24-27 April 2014, EMP Museum, Seattle.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


My paper, entitled “‘As the road leads cursed and charmed’: the disappointed traveller in Joni Mitchell’s Hejira“ reads Mitchell’s 1976 album [which takes its title from the Arabic meaning ‘flight’ or ‘emigration’] as an exercise in failed flight, both from the stultifying intimacy of personal relationships and the diktats of the music industry. Whilst tracks such as ‘Coyote’, ‘Black Crow’ and ‘Refuge of the Roads’ [along with the nomadic imagery of the album’s cover] initially seem to exult in the potentiality of the road, I will argue that Hejira is profoundly ambivalent about the possibility of escape, an ambivalence most obviously summed up by the resigned, misfiring refrain “it was just a false alarm” of ‘Amelia’ but also represented by the series of disappointed spaces in the album: the blue motel room, the roadside coffee shop, and the boarded-up snackbar. Whilst, for Mitchell, the idea of ‘hejira’ was that of ‘running away honorably’ [see interview with Cameron Crowe for Rolling Stone Magazine, July 26 1979], I will argue that this is an album punctured by the inescapability of an everyday which cannot be outrun, despite the album’s occasional recourse to the general and abstract [“I’m travelling in some vehicle/sitting in some café” – ‘Hejira’]. As such, this paper takes on the EMP’s theme of movement by interrogating the motif of the female nomad in Hejira, an album which has been read too easily as depicting the promise of escape.

This paper also represents an important contribution to feminist studies of second-wave American culture and recent work within affect studies on the manifestation of disappointment and the everyday within the late-twentieth century [see, for example, work by Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart].

Keywords:popular music, second-wave feminism, Joni Mitchell, affect
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q300 English studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W330 History of Music
W Creative Arts and Design > W300 Music
Divisions:College of Arts
College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
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ID Code:15005
Deposited On:19 Sep 2014 10:47

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