Title page for ETD etd-05312006-181403

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Trudeau, Justin Thomas
Author's Email Address jtrudeau@unt.edu
URN etd-05312006-181403
Title Jack Kerouac's Spontaneous Prose: A Performance Genealogy of the Fiction
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michael Bowman Committee Chair
Elsie Michie Committee Member
Patricia Suchy Committee Member
Ruth Laurion Bowman Committee Member
Kirstin Noreen Dean's Representative
  • performance art
Date of Defense 2006-05-08
Availability unrestricted
This study analyzes Jack Kerouacís writing method of spontaneous prose and articulates how the method can be understood as performative writing. Kerouacís ďEssentials of Spontaneous Prose,Ē On the Road, Visions of Cody, and Doctor Sax are explored to evaluate both the successes and failures of the authorís attempts to break literary boundaries and create a new writing method based upon spontaneous tenets. These three novels, which were written in succession from 1950 to 1953 when Kerouac was in his most productive period, represent both the emergence and dissent of the authorís use of performative writing.

To explicate the cultural genesis and dissemination of Kerouacís writing method, the historiographical method of performance genealogy is utilized to address two fictions operating within the larger discourse surrounding Kerouac. First, by focusing on the authorís works rather than on his biographical life, this study seeks to contribute to our understanding of Kerouacís status as an author and as a performer of fiction. Second, by focusing on the cultural historicity of his writing method, it is argued that Kerouacís method of spontaneous prose is a much more complicated approach to novelistic discourse than both his earlier critics and some contemporary fans have acknowledged.

By addressing spontaneous prose as a method of performative writing, this study articulates what spontaneous prose is and what it does. To this end, the study tracks the doing of spontaneity over the course of three separate literary performances of the novel. As the genealogical trajectory of the writing method demonstrates, in On the Road Kerouac has only begun to implement the changes he wanted to explore after discovering his literary method. Visions of Cody represents the authorís commitment to the writing method, but as its series of literary experiments shows, Kerouac is not yet able to balance his writing method with a sustained approach to narrative story telling. Finally, in Doctor Sax, Kerouac is able to achieve what his two earlier novels had not. That is, a synthesis between the form of invention and the subjects of invention themselves. Implications for performance studies and performative writing are explored.

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