Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination explores Kerouac's fiction, poetry, religious writing, private journals, and correspondence as literary texts revealing his aesthetic vision for American belle letters - one embracing the confessional, rhapsodic, sermonic, and comic. The vision encompasses his fictional rewriting of his personal life, his life-long quest for spiritual enlightenment - both Christian and Buddhist - and his resolute belief in the blending of popular and academic cultural artifacts to create voices and forms that would speak of and to a new age. The book focuses on his use of film, comic book characters, and jazz, as well as his indebtedness to texts as diverse as James Joyce's Ulysses, St. Teresa de Avila's prayers and confessions, William Gibson's The Shadow, the Apocrypha, Gene Autry's B-movie westerns, and Goethe's Faust.
'Grace's extensively researched and crisp, lucid prose makes Kerouac come alive as an interdisciplinary artist whose work implores American to reclaim its spiritual folk heritage. Grace's careful attention to language, craft, and context deepens our understanding of Kerouac the prophet-quester and Kerouac the experimental writer. An invaluable study of the syncretic American Christian Buddhist literature Kerouac produced, this book clarifies Kerouac's fusion of the Cross and the Bodhi Tree - and makes us better readers of the eclectic wisdom texts from which this fusion emerged.' - Tony Trigilio, Columbia College Chicago, USA; Author of Allen Ginsberg's Buddhist Poetics (2007)
'How did a first-generation New Englander of working class Canuck parentage turn himself into a great American writer? Grace's scholarship illuminates Kerouac's achievement and explains how his writing reflects the diverse cultural traditions that nourished his genius. A most helpful book.' - Ann Charters, Professor of English, University of Connecticut, USA
'By drawing on the newly published Some of the Dharma and through her fresh readings of Kerouac's central novels, Nancy Grace has given us the most powerful and comprehensive account to date of why Kerouac was right to claim that 'Beat' is at root 'beatitude.' Through her rich interrogation of Kerouac's sustained dialogue with his Catholocism, Buddhism, and his faith in American possibility past and present, we are privileged to see not simply Kerouac the seeker after kicks but Kerouac the religious seeker and Kerouac the religious thinker.' - Timothy Hunt, Professor of English, Illinois State University, USA; Author of Kerouac's Crooked Road: Development of a Fiction