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On the Road to Lost Fathers: Jack Kerouac in a Lacanian Perspective

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Tomasz Sawczuk

The book is the first monograph which examines the correspondences between the oeuvre of Jack Kerouac and the thought of Jacques Lacan, the two apparently incompatible worlds which prove to be complementary when taking a closer look. The study demonstrates a number of points. Firstly, with Jacques Lacan as a silent partner, it helps to better understand why psychoanalysis won Kerouac’s enmity in the mid-1950s. It also delves into Lacan’s reflections on spontaneous free-association to prove their convergence with Beats’ literary tactics. In its final part, by employing Lacanian theory, the book offers an extensive insight into Kerouac’s oeuvre to excavate the problematic status of the father figure, a crucial matter not yet given a rigorous critical attention.

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1 The Development of Psychoanalysis in the United States

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1.1 The Pre-war Period

It is now a common belief that psychoanalysis was brought to the United States by Freud himself. During his visit in 1909 the Austrian psychoanalyst gave a series of lectures at Clark’s University in Worchester which rendered a vivid interest over his theories, allowed to establish some psychoanalytic associations in the following years, and were the first sign of highly successful adaptation of his work that was to come. However, the status of Freud’s three-week conference visit to the Clark University in 1909 as the cornerstone of American psychoanalysis is nothing short of being mythical. As argued by Richard Skues, the event celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the university might have been something of a subject of a retroactive “act of displacement” when it comes to its significance for anchoring psychoanalysis in America (77). Prior to Freud’s visit to the States, different forms of psychotherapy had already been present there and psychoanalytic theory was no exception; it “was only one of the competing techniques and did not stand out from the others” (Burnham, “Introduction” 14). Besides, it also “formed no coherent body of thought” (Skues 53).5 Much as Freud was a name in the United States (albeit merely for a small group of professionals), psychoanalysis was mainly recognized in terms of being mistaken with other trends in the field of psychotherapy, which paradoxically might have helped it to gain some ground (Shamdasini 44). What is more, it would not be a...

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