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A Specific Elsewhere: Locating Masculinity in Jack Kerouac's On The Road

Smith, Lee W (2017) A Specific Elsewhere: Locating Masculinity in Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Masters thesis, University Of Essex.

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Abstract

In travelling across the postwar United States, Jack Kerouac hoped to revive what he perceived as the lost essence of America. Kerouac’s travels – many of which were shared with his friend Neal Cassady – represented a resistance to the postwar social ideal, an exchange in spatial systems that mobilised him beyond the confines of suburban conformity to experience the more marginalised aspects of American society. This dissertation offers an interpretative exploration of the ways in which Kerouac’s chronicling of his travels in On the Road: The Original Scroll presents images of, and the search for, a subjectively authentic experience of white American masculinity. Drawing on a range of primary and secondary sources, I establish a chronology of American political and cultural responses to the American male self, offering examinations of relevant discourse from the Revolutionary period to the twentieth century. I explore the role of gender in the formation of the presented ideals and identity of the United States, and offer discussion of the entwining of masculinity with the ethos and protocols of the American Frontier, a theatre of experience on which Kerouac’s prose explicitly draws in its presentation of American masculinity. In exploring Kerouac’s work directly, I address the literary presentation of Neal Cassady as the personification of subjectively revered masculine archetypes, highlighting a range of paradoxes, contradictions, and purported binary distinctions that position the white American male outside of a definitive and sustained performance of masculinity in the text. My discussion examines Kerouac’s prose against concurrent social expectations of gender, considering the ways in which the intersection of Cold War tensions, wider literary and philosophical tradition, and American popular culture all come to bear on both his presentation of white American masculinity, and his own authorial voice.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Masculinity, American, Prose, Fiction, Postwar, Kerouac, Beat, Gender,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Lee Smith
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2017 11:46
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2017 11:46
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/19767

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