Technology in the work of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

Nash, Catherine (2008) Technology in the work of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores the use and significance of technologies of representation in the work of Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), particularly in relation to the development of ideas of free and improvisatory expression in the 1950s. More specifically it focuses on the role played by the technologies of the typewriter and tape recorder in the textual production of key works of each writer and how these technologies are also thematically important in their exploration of the topics of individual creativity and freedom in relation to social and technological control. It also examines the centrality of epistolary practice in the creative process. The focus on these technologies will allow the thesis to develop from this base into a wider exploration of many of the key themes of Kerouac’s and Burroughs’ work, placing them within a context of wider debates and concerns over the power of mass media and technology among contemporary social commentators as well as writers of the Beat generation.

The thesis is broadly divided into two sections, with the first half concentrating on Kerouac and the second half on Burroughs. Chapter one explores Kerouac’s writing practices in an analysis of the scroll draft of On The Road. Chapter two examines Kerouac’s representation of a variety of media including the printed word and radio in Doctor Sax. In chapter three, I look at Kerouac’s spontaneous prose method in an analysis of The Subterraneans. Chapter four concentrates specifically on Kerouac’s experimentation with the tape recorder in Visions of Cody. Chapter five focuses on framing Burroughs’ Junky and Queer in terms of cybernetics. In chapter six I present an analysis of Naked Lunch, looking at the techniques that Burroughs uses to disrupt the traditional narrative form, and in chapter seven I look at Burroughs’ cut-up method by examining his Nova trilogy: The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Murray, D.J.
Jenner, P.
Subjects: P Language and literature > PS American literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
Item ID: 13120
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2013 13:07
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 06:34

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