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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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8 “If I Were God I’d Have the Word”  – Visions of Gerard, Satori in Paris and Vanity of Duluoz

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8 “If I Were God I’d Have the Word” – Visions of Gerard, Satori in Paris and Vanity of Duluoz

Compared to On the Road and Visions of Cody, both emerging from the deficiencies of the paternal metaphor and being first to articulate these (both in form and content of the novel), many of the successive installments of the Duluoz legend reinvigorate the tropes of the missing father figure and thus maintain Duluoz’s metonymic quest for the paternal. These tropes are governed by what both novels on Neal Cassady already tried to do to the fatherly. They set up a paradigm of a predominantly sturdy, domineering, courageous, prophet-like figure, offering its knowledge and guidance to the inert and stupefied Kerouacian subject. The further installments of the legend are no different; repetitive in the act of reinstalling the paradigmatic paternal metaphor, they sustain the relentless Lacanian desire to know what it means to possess the phallus.79 In Kerouac’s next novel, Doctor Sax: Faust Part Three (1959), we are presented with the mysterious Dr. Sax figure. A blend of a pulp fiction superhero (based on the protagonist of The Shadow radio program) and an ethereal, menacing figure looming over the adolescent Jackie Duluoz, the character is a residue of secret knowledge which can help the Kerouacian subject to overcome his fears of growing up and introduce him into maturity. The Dharma Bums (1958) offers another incarnation of an active brotherly/fatherly hero followed by the passive narrator and protagonist of the novel...

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