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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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6 “[C];ome Up to Rivers and Cross Them One Way or Another”  – The Town and the City

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6 “[C];ome Up to Rivers and Cross Them One Way or Another” – The Town and the City

Lacan’s theories may shed new light on the intricacies of Kerouac’s texts primarily because these revolve heavily around the figure of the father. If, as suggested by many critics, Kerouac failed at his attempt to unify his life in a form of a legend comprising his entire oeuvre, it is the author’s stance that the incoherence of the Duluoz Legend is fundamentally the consequence of the problematic deficiency characterizing father figure(s) in the successive installments of Kerouac’s project. The insufficiency of the paternal function becomes paradoxically both a recurring theme which haunts the Duluoz legend and prevents it from cohesion as well as the phenomenon which makes the discourse possible at all. Commenting on the narrative foundations of The Odyssey, Robert Con Davis observes that

in terms of narrative function, it is … clear that Odysseus’ absence and Telemakhos’ awareness of that absence satisfy what Lacanian theory shows to be need for the inauguration of discourse. This absence …, a primordial want-to-be – is pre-ontological and, as such, is a theoretical precondition of all structure. Just as in Lacanian theory where the initial absence of the father inaugurates a desire for the father’s, and the child thereby becomes the embodiment of knowledge about the father (and the absence associated with him), the oddysean son begins the epic as he gazes toward a fatherless horizon … . (7)

Gazing towards a...

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