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

By Omar Swartz | Go to book overview

6
The Vision of Sexuality

Extending from the general notion of social deviance is the more specific vision of sexuality. For Kerouac, human sexuality is one terrain on which the body becomes political. 1 In expressing social deviance, Kerouac redefines the norms of sexuality in 1950s America, reinventing a significant part of U.S. morality. In mid-century America, much human sexuality was considered a form of social deviance, as it is today (although less so), since sexual activity that falls outside of the traditional bounds of Christian morality is a potential threat to many cultural institutions--explaining in part the fierce resistance to homosexuality in many sectors of American society. Divergent forms of sexuality, particularly homosexuality, undermine many of the foundations upon which "normal" cultural practices are measured. Similarly, Dean Moriarty's sexuality can be evaluated in terms of its implicit threat to the larger social fabric. While ostensibly heterosexual, Dean's flagrant disregard for monogamous relationships-- unlike other forms of sexual transgression, such as "machoism "--undermines family norms and values, calling into question some of the basic moralities that structure our society. In no sense can Dean be seen as "macho," although there is a temptation to read him in that way. Dean does not simply have mistresses to emphasize his "manliness"; rather, Dean consumes women with such ferocity and mindlessness that other motivations have to be inferred. Dean is more than phallocentric; this "more" is a transcendence that also exceeds base forms of machoism.

Simply, Dean uses sex to transcend the constraints and limitations placed on sexuality by society. These constraints and limitations are not "repressive," however. Rather, they are "productive," as Foucault ( 1978)

-74-

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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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