From Kerouac back to Thoreau: The Pull towards Nature, a Revolt against Culture?

Harma, Tanguy. 2022. From Kerouac back to Thoreau: The Pull towards Nature, a Revolt against Culture? JAST – Journal of American Studies of Turkey(57), pp. 53-70. ISSN 1300-6606 [Article]

No full text available
[img] Text
From Kerouac back to Thoreau.pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (223kB)

Abstract or Description

Many of Jack Kerouac's road novels stage a retreat into the wild that typifies an irrepressible urge towards natural phenomena, an urge which closely resonates with the works of Henry David Thoreau a century earlier. In Kerouac's Big Sur (1962) and in Thoreau's Walden (1854), nature is envisaged as a safe haven from the sociohistorical forces of oppression that shape modern existence, but also – more romantically – as a gateway to spiritual insights that affords the possibility for transcendence. Highlighting a series of analogies on the narrative, aesthetic and ontological planes between the two novels, the article goes on to show that this tropism towards nature simultaneously involves a process of disengagement from the cultural predicament of modern America; for Thoreau this meant the industrial revolution, for Kerouac the post-war quagmire. Reinterpreted as a romantic form of the revolt, I argue that this disengagement promotes a deliberate alienation from the social world that blurs the line between the quest for transcendence and the solipsistic condition.

Item Type:



Beat Literature; American Transcendentalism; American Romanticism; Disengagement; Alienation

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


1 March 2022Accepted
30 May 2022Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2023 10:24

Last Modified:

10 Jan 2023 12:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)