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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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As this study attempted to demonstrate, despite the diversities in their idioms, discourses, and milieux, Kerouac and Lacan might be considered silent partners in a number of ways. They share commonalities at a few levels and reveal to be illuminating for one another.

As observed in Chapter Four, Lacan proves useful when considering Kerouac’s relations with Freud and psychoanalysis, undoubtedly troubling and multifaceted ones. Freud’s immensurable influence on American health care, intellectual elites, and everyday life made his name something of a trademark on the American soil, a name that splintered into dozens of schools, as we have seen, often not having much in common with the root. All things considered, one might get the impression that although well-read, Kerouac became a bit of a victim of falling into the trap of identifying all the shortcomings of psychoanalysis with the Austrian doctor. Also, for Kerouac, Freud would occasionally become a straw man synonymous with the deficiencies of psychiatry and institutional psychoanalysis, which proved ineffective with either him or his friends. It is also the ego-psychology, a child of European and American psychoanalytic thought which dominated the American clinic in the middle of the twentieth century, which was perceived by Kerouac as an oppressive element (unreflective on its own matter, money-striven and aiming at eradicating idiosyncrasies, it also remained under the heavy critique of Jacques Lacan, who considered ego-psychology a tragic misapprehension of the Freudian thought). What further complicates Kerouac’s way of thinking about psychoanalysis are the...

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