American becoming : poetics, space, and race in the travel narratives of Herman Melville and Jack Kerouac

  • Yun SONG

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


This dissertation examines the travel narratives of Herman Melville and Jack Kerouac arguing that these works epitomize a literary ”becoming” in American history. Being a crucial component of Gilles Deleuze’s positive ontology, this ”becoming” mirrors a multiple and constant transformation toward the minor, the marginal, and the non-white and resonates rigorously with the literature of Melville and Kerouac. The representative works by these two canonical American authors, namely, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846) and On the Road (1957), construct aesthetic spaces in which readers are called upon to appreciate the American life of becoming-Pacific and becoming-beat. The geographical and psychological trajectories depicted in both works also allow for an ethical engagement with the Other. Drawing upon anthropology and literary criticism, I further argue that, against the background of imperial expansion and capitalistic production, both Melville and Kerouac’s narratives provide cultural insights that gesture toward an Avant-garde and futuristic cosmopolitanism.
Date of Award5 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorYunte HUANG (Supervisor) & Aleksandar STEVIĆ (Co-supervisor)

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