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Title:Complicating "a Very Masculine Aesthetic": Positional Sons and Double Husbands, Kinship and Careening in Jack Kerouac's Fiction
Author(s):Davenport, Stephen M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baym, N.,
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:In a series of eleven works that are more conservative than his reputation would suggest, Kerouac constructed a legend of his life that serves today as a valuable multivolume text not only for literary historians but also for anyone interested in such subjects as family maintenance, ethnic assimilation, the frontier myth, masculinity formation, gender studies, and post-WWII counterculture. Encompassing all of these subjects, this study promotes the Duluoz legend as an autobiographical record of one man's search for self in a homosocial world at the same time it is a family historian's self-conscious record of the threat to family that men like him pose.
The threat that the search for self poses to family maintenance is a central theme in Kerouac's fiction. In The Town and the City, the precursor to the Duluoz legend, the threat is defused in two paradigms (i.e., father-son and mother-daughter) that, together and separately, ensure the family's continuance. The threat is much more problematic in the legend, where the conflict between self and family is kept open through the constant negotiation of Jack Duluoz's two primary goals: to leave home to write himself into a literary patrilineage of traveler-writers and to stay home to take care of his mother after his father dies.
As the legend develops, Duluoz's choice of a woman with whom he might make a family of his own is complicated by a number of conflicting desires--heterosexual, homosexual, homosocial, ascetic, familial, incestuous--many of which converge in the promise of a triangulated marriage to Cody and Evelyn Pomeray. As double husbands, he and Cody would be father, brother, and son to each other. Such an arrangement would allow Duluoz to recuperate his childhood family. Though it fails, the idealized double-husband proposal is central to an understanding of the legend Kerouac made of his life.
In addition to providing reconstructions of Kerouac's life and legend, this study promotes Kerouac's fiction as a valuable analysis of postwar masculinity, nostalgic at the same time it is critical.
Issue Date:1992
Description:288 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1992.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9305499
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1992

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