Kerouac, Jack


U.S. Novelist and Poet

Jack Kerouac's life and writing have greatly influenced conceptions of masculinity, gender roles, and sexuality in contemporary American society. Kerouac and other writers of the Beat Generation—which reached its height during the 1950s— rejected what they considered stifling and hypocritical middle-class conventions in favor of intense personal experience, freedom of expression, artistic creation, and spiritual enlightenment. They immersed themselves in alcohol, drugs, jazz culture, and sex. Kerouac's vision of manhood thus diverged radically from the postwar norm of dutiful, impassive figures aspiring to material wealth, security, and nuclear-family life. Rather, like his literary forefather Walt Whitman, Kerouac celebrated an ideal man that lived in the present moment, was emotionally forthright, and sought passionate self-understanding and sensual exhilaration.

The shy, devout son of Catholic ...

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