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Constructions of Identity and Otherness in Jack Kerouac's Prose

MIKELLI, EFTYCHIA (2009) Constructions of Identity and Otherness in Jack Kerouac's Prose. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is inspired by the abiding academic and public interest in Kerouac’s work and aims to advance new readings of Kerouac’s prose in a contemporary literary and cultural context. It is particularly concerned with a deconstructive reading of Kerouac’s prose and engages with his negotiations of race, gender, spirituality and origins within the framework of post-war America’s accelerated culture. Kerouac’s indebtedness to modernist techniques notwithstanding, this thesis argues that in its historical and thematic preoccupations Kerouac’s prose is vividly conversant with postmodern strategies. Without losing perspective of the late forties and fifties background from which Kerouac’s works emerged, the thesis explores the ways in which his thematic, linguistic and structural concerns interact with contemporary theory. Tracing the Kerouacian narrator’s problematization of the search for meaning in an accelerating culture, it examines his prose in a post-war context of uncertainty and ambiguity. In active dialogue with his contemporary America, Kerouac addresses and often challenges the dominant cultural practices of his time. Foregrounding the conflicts of his era, he anticipates subsequent social developments and philosophical debates, gesturing towards and at times capturing a postmodern sensibility.

The four chapters of the thesis analyse Kerouac’s approach to the concept of simulation, his position towards Western representations of Eastern spirituality, his negotiation of the image of the exotic other and his narrative constructions of ethnicity and identity. Using the work of theorists such as Baudrillard, Virilio and Derrida, and also drawing on postcolonial studies, I demonstrate how Kerouac produces a highly performative prose in his projections of identity and heterogeneity. It is this ability to converse with literary and cultural developments up to the present day that best illuminates the contemporary appeal of Kerouac’s deconstructive approach to the notions of identity and otherness and most vividly illustrates the continuing vitality of Kerouac’s writing.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Jack Kerouac, identity, otherness, race, gender, ethnicity, origins, spirituality, speed, simulation, postcolonial, Baudrillard, Virilio, Derrida, On the Road, The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, Satori in Paris.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Nov 2009 15:13

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