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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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7 “Somewhere Behind Us or In Front of Us in the Huge Night His Father Lay”  – On the Road and Visions of Cody

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7 “Somewhere Behind Us or In Front of Us in the Huge Night His Father Lay” – On the Road and Visions of Cody

Peter Martin’s departure into the unknown of the American land at the end of The Town and the City smoothly transits into Kerouac’s second novel, whose formal and thematic fixation over the motif of movement finds a fresh literary idiom and makes it a brand new opening for the writer. On the Road (1957), together with its derivative Visions of Cody (published posthumously in 1972) mark a pivotal change in both Kerouac’s diction and his understanding of literature as they exemplify the writer’s turn to the poetics of spontaneity, whose major strategies and features have been delineated in the previous chapters. Hailed by Gilbert Millstein from New York Times as The Sun Also Rises of its generation and often considered the Bible of the Beat Generation, On the Road, originally a 120-foot one-paragraph scroll, is an autobiographically-inspired, cross-country itinerary of Kerouac’s alter ego, Sal Paradise. Taking place between 1947 and 1950, the novel channels and interrogates many of the fears and hopes of the post-war youth, among them “[t];he yearning for personal relevance, the awkward infatuation with cultures other than his own, that restless desire to get up and move,” (Holladay ix). Whether he liked it or not, Kerouac became the voice of both the American youth and of a bulk of thinking-alike artists who struggled for finding a fresh literary idiolect as well...

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