A Feminist Perspective of On the Road and The First Third

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Much has been written about the Beat generation, especially about the hold its radical freedom has exerted on the American imagination. The Beats who stand out in most of our minds are men and the freedom they enjoyed--a freedom of movement, of creativity, of sexuality--is coded as a particularly male kind of freedom. My paper will suggest that in their autobiographical texts On the Road and The First Third Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady construct a travelling masculinity in an attempt to escape bourgeois patriarchal structures without abandoning traditional patriarchal definitions of masculine power.

In the American imagination, the archetypal national hero is a travelling man: the frontiersman, pioneer, cowboy, scout, who subdued the wilderness and inscribed "America" over the continent. Moving unfettered through American frontiers, they exemplified the freedom of complete self-creation. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Editor's Note," which serves as an introduction to Neal Cassady's The First Third, positions Cassady in the American heroic tradition as representative of th...
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