Brittney Winters ACF Abstract FY12

"Between Innocence and Experience: Marginalization of the 'Other' in 'On the Road"'

The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900
 

Kerouac and the Beat generation are notorious for appropriating the language of

alienated minority subcultures as their own to describe their disillusionment with

mainstream society. Fascinated with the ways in which these minority groups

manipulated language and subverted meaning to create countercultures, Beat artists

incorporated these techniques into their own work and appointed themselves

intermediaries between these minority subcultures and the mainstream masses.

Though Beat writers contributed to the demand for representation by minority

cultures, these same narratives serve to illustrate the benefits of white privilege.

Kerouac’s protagonist in On the Road expresses his dissatisfaction with the white,

middle-class experience by fetishizing the marginalization of racial minorities during his

travels, creating in the sense of “Otherness” a type of innocence that has yet to be sullied

by the expectations of mainstream society, further reinforcing racist ideologies.

By examining On the Road through postcolonial and African-American

theoretical lenses, I will demonstrate how the language of othering serves to undermine

the protagonist’s, and by extension, Kerouac’s admiration of minority subcultures and

also demonstrates a problematic reduction of the struggles that these minorities faced in

postwar America.

Page last modified July 6, 2012