The View from on the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac

By Omar Swartz | Go to book overview

2 Kerouac in Context

Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. He died in Florida in 1969 from internal hemorrhaging brought on by his alcoholism. Kerouac's working-class family was French-Canadian, raising Kerouac under the guidance of Catholicism. He studied in parochial schools where he learned to speak and read English as a second language. He had one older brother, Gerard, who died when Kerouac was a child, and a sister who died when he was much older. Kerouac was a strong, husky man with considerable athletic ability. He was recruited by Columbia University to play football, and his enrollment at that school was a decisive event in his life, for it was at Columbia that Kerouac was exposed to the excitement and lure of New York City. Within a few years he had met and befriended people such as William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Hal Chase, and Allen Ginsberg. With these people, Kerouac became exposed to the men and women of the criminal underclass that he would romanticize in many of his novels.

At Columbia, Kerouac soon lost interest in football, rejecting the authority of the coach as he would reject all authority in his life. However, by losing interest in football, Kerouac lost his scholarship and subsequently was unable to remain in school. Kerouac enthusiastically departed from Columbia, using his newly freed time to read voraciously, write continuously, and intensify his experiences in the city, where he solidified his relationship with a crowd of petty criminals and drug abusers, including Ginsberg and the slightly older William Burroughs. These three men belonged to a larger collection of men and women, in major cities throughout the United States, that had an informal network of liaisons

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The View from on the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Part One - Departures 1
  • 1 - Rhetorical Transformations 3
  • 2 - Kerouac in Context 15
  • 3 - Kerouac's Rhetorical Situation 27
  • 4 - Fantasy, Rhetorical Vision, and the Critical Act 43
  • Part Two - View from the Road 59
  • 5 - The Vision of Social Deviance 61
  • 6 - The Vision of Sexuality 74
  • 7 - Dean as Vision 82
  • 8 - Conclusion: Kerouac and Liminality 94
  • Notes 105
  • Bibliography 113
  • Index 125
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