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


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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5 The Beat Analyst? Jack Kerouac, Beat Models of Writing, and Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Textual Strategies and Comparative Perspectives


As I have demonstrated, the relationship between Kerouac’s life, his work and psychoanalysis is all but smooth and untroublesome, just as the history of psychoanalysis in the United States has proved itself to be. Yet, despite all the shades of disdain displayed by the American writer towards what would stand for him as the phoniness and danger of psychoanalysis, one cannot overlook the debt Kerouac’s textual strategies owe to a psychoanalytic way of thinking about language, literature, and subjectivity. Bearing in mind that it was also Ginsberg and Burroughs who found psychoanalysis a significant point of artistic reference, one feels tempted to test some tenets of the psychoanalytic theory against the Beats’ literary tactics. Much as each of them demonstrated a heterogeneous way of thinking about literature, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs turned their eyes to spontaneity, irrationality, and subversiveness as remedies for the conservative, stifling and stiff atmosphere of the mid-twentieth century America. Their artistic techniques, Stephenson claims, focused largely on

circumventing or … breaking through the rational, logical intelligence, the ego consciousness, to establish contact with the unconscious mind, with the deepest levels of being (180).

In a perpetual and spontaneous reinvention of his life, Kerouac searched for ways to let his hidden mental life emerge and bring together the ambiguities of his personality. Ginsberg, on the other hand, was interested in capturing what might be deemed the objectivity of human experience by unleashing the deepest level of his subjective feelings. Having possibly the...

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