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Jack Kerouac in the Context of American Studies


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Androić, Ivona. (2016). Jack Kerouac in the Context of American Studies. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Grgas, Stipe].

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America has always, since its beginnings, strived to reach the ideal of the perfect ‗city upon a hill,‘ a land that was given a special place in this world, a land that has a special andexceptional role to play and to maintain. And when the American Studies emerged it based its concepts and paradigms on those ideals. This paper dealt with how Jack Kerouac, as the leader and most famous representative of the Beat Generation, found his place within the American Studies, within the context of the myths and symbols it developed and relied upon. In order to contextualize Kerouac and American Studies and connect them, it wasimportant first to present a short biography, an overview of Kerouac‘s life, his influences, events and people that affected him and later his writing. He was of French-Canadian origins, born to Christian parents, and had a certain dual personality, dual identity. On the one hand he was very introverted, shy, and timid, always keeping to himself, and on the other, eager to explore the world, discover new things, open towards the odd and different people in society. This was all reflected in his way of life and in his writing. What was then analyzed was which myths and symbols permeate Kerouac‘s writing and form a base upon which he build his stories, and with that, his way of life, due to the fact that his novels are autobiographical and depict real events from his life. Some of the most important and influential myths that have persisted since the beginning of American Studies, and still have some impact and a place in the American mind and literature are: the American Adam, a real American hero entering the wilderness, free from the constraints of the society; the West, the frontier, the westward movement, America as an agricultural country, constantly expanding to the West. This is where the Beat Generation and their representative Jack Kerouac find fertile ground for their, to an extent, revolutionary ideas and works. With his innovative way of writing, a spontaneous stream-of-consciousness prose, he disregarded the conventions and the customs of the time, relying on some of the most important concepts and themes of true Americanness. In On the Road, one of his most famous and representative novels, Kerouac is a frontiersman, always on the move, exploring the West in this road genre, where men explore their limits and the limits of their land, of their freedom. Apart from that, this novel is also, at its core, a stand against the social, cultural and political boundaries. In his novels, Kerouac brings about another way of achieving true Americannes, another myth that underlies American thought, which is the pastoral ideal, the idea that working in and off of nature is where he will find his true self. This theme is present in On the Road, where he finds peace in working in the cotton fields, but it is most obviously depicted in the novel Big Sur which draws quite a few parallels with Thoreau‘s Walden.Thoreau was concerned with nature and people being strangled by conventions from the Old World, and what he wanted was for those conventions to be washed away so that the natural could reveal itself again and create its own conventions. This is what Kerouac tries to do as well, in attempts to find peace and his true identity, his Americanness, in the nature. Kerouac was successful in some of his endeavors, less successful in others, but what matters in the end is that constant search, movement, following the great myths of America, searching for them and their meaning and maybe even making the way for some new myths and new meanings.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Subjects: English language and literature > American Studies
English language and literature
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Grgas, Stipe
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2016 09:39
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2016 09:39

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