Melehy’s essay explores Jack Kerouac’s relationship to the Québécois diaspora of which his Massachusetts family was a part, his experience of English as a foreign language, and how these inform his aesthetics. Melehy situates the discussion in debates on multilingualism in the study of American literature as well as theories of minor literature and translation. He demonstrates that Kerouac’s realism involves an effort to bring into dominant US representation many aspects of the diaspora that were ideologically hidden. Part of this consideration is the reception of Kerouac in Quebec as a major literary figure who made immense contributions to reflections on hybrid North American identity. In the appreciation of Kerouac by Quebec novelist and critic Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, the author shows that early critical dismissals of Kerouac in the United States were closely connected to the aesthetic problems he raised in his work that were specific to his awareness of the diaspora. Melehy then turns his attention to some of Kerouac’s lesser-known novels, especially two that focus mainly on French-Canadian culture and identity, Dr. Sax (1959) and Satori in Paris (1966). Proceeding to a commentary of a Québécois rewriting of Kerouac, Jacques Poulin’s 1984 Volkswagen Blues, Melehy demonstrates this novel’s exploration of North American identities in connection with Quebec and the role of literature in mapping them. The conclusion assesses Kerouac’s contribution to American literature as a meditation on transnational, translingual identity.
Hassan Melehy; Literatures of Exile and Return: Jack Kerouac and Quebec. American Literature 1 September 2012; 84 (3): 589–615. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1664728
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