Jack Kerouac And The Spontaneous Prose English Literature Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 1339 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
Jack Kerouac is perhaps most revered for his candid account of the “Beat Generation” in the groundbreaking testament to American literature that is On the Road. What he probably did not expect to do in the midst of a restrictive society, however, was forever alter the face of modern prose. The “stream of consciousness” prose he revealed to the public in several of his works was essentially a resistance to mainstream American literature. Kerouac dismissed the traditional uses of punctuation and structure that he believed would often constrict the mind. Instead, he grew accustomed to reaching into the innermost corners of his consciousness to write exactly what he felt. In the Essentials of Writing Prose, Kerouac outlines a series of components that he deems most crucial when writing spontaneous prose. He also teaches future writers to be transcribers of everything in and around them and to experience the world as onlookers in Belief & Technique for Modern Prose. The techniques discussed in these outlines bring the inner-workings of Kerouac’s literary innovation to light, which are demonstrated throughout what could be viewed in itself as an introductory work on how to write in spontaneous prose, The Subterraneans.
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In the Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, Kerouac urges the writer to pursue “free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought” as opposed to bounding oneself to selective expression (Charters 484). He stresses his belief that the writer should not stop to think about a specific word, but should merely record the bare ideas that the mind instructs the pen in hand to write. In regard to method, he states:
No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily
Riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but
the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz
musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)-‘measured
pauses which are the essentials of our speech’-‘divisions of the
sounds we hear’-‘time and how to note it down’ (Charters 484).
Kerouac wants the writer to inhale as deeply as possible, extending into the depths of the soul and ignoring any potential setbacks of structure and punctuation. Next, the writer must exhale with as much force as possible in order to release the purest vociferous melodies of the subconscious. He also strongly believes that trivial commas and semi-colons will only erode the natural rhythm of the writer’s thinking.
Kerouac emphasizes that the writer will subconsciously communicate his/her message to the reader via the intrinsic movement of human thought by writing without demanding restrictions. He states, “write as deeply, fish far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind” (Charters 484). Additionally, he considers any form of revision to be toxic to the pure stream of one’s consciousness. He also discusses the concept of “semi-trance” writing, which allows one’s subconscious to convey ideas that even the conscious mind censors. According to Kerouac, the writer’s thoughts should “come from within, out-to relaxed and said” (Charters 485). One must allow the subconscious to consume the speaker’s voice, thereby gaining control unabated by proper grammar.
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Kerouac’s Belief & Technique of Modern Prose consists of a series of steps that he considers vital when writing in spontaneous prose. In an effort to reveal his central methods of writing, he encourages the writer to retain everything by keeping “scribbled secret notebooks and wild typewritten pages” simply for one’s own pleasure (Charters 483). He urges the writer to write “in tranced fixation dreaming upon the object before [him/her]” (Charters 483). For Kerouac, doing such things aids in withstanding any hesitations that would hinder one’s stream of consciousness.
In terms of recording one’s purest thoughts, Kerouac tells the writer to “Compose wild undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better” and to “Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea” (Charters 483). Once again, he emphasizes the importance of writing without limit in order to extract deep-seated thoughts from one’s consciousness. From this “List of Essentials” for potential writers, Kerouac’s most important advice is that one must embrace the world around him/her and describe the state of it as he/she witnesses it happening.
Kerouac’s The Subterraneans is a semi-fictional account of a short-lived romance between Leo Percepied (Kerouac) and Mardou Fox, which takes place during the 1950’s Bop era in San Francisco. In some ways, this work can be understood as a prime example of how one should write in spontaneous prose. When Mardou writes a love letter to Percepied, for instance, he informs an absent Mardou, (and the reader) of the ways to write more loosely and without restraint.
The tips mentioned in the Belief & Techniques of Modern Prose are essentially listed throughout Percepied’s thought process as he reads the letter. He begins with a criticism on Mardou by comparing her to writers who follow literary conventions. “She talks likeâ€¦the city decadent intellectual dead-ended in cause and effect analysis and solution of so-called problems” (Kerouac 57). Here, Kerouac chooses to speak through Percepied as though he is actually lecturing the reader. He continues, “[There is] not enough detail, the details are the life of itâ€¦everything on your mind, don’t hold back, don’t analyze or anything as you go along” (Kerouac 58). This statement refers back to two concepts emphasized in Belief & Techniques of Modern Prose: “Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind” and “Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind” (Charters 483). In essence, he is showing us by means of The Subterraneans, (and even Mardou for that matter) how to write without limitations.
Percepied continues analyzing the letter and states, “the whole complicated phrase [is] further complicated by the fact [that] it is presented in the originally written form under theâ€¦additions of a rewrite, which is not as interesting to me naturally (Kerouac 58).” As discussed in the Belief & Techniques of Modern Prose, Kerouac believes that one must “remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition” when writing in the spontaneous form (Charters 483). Also, in Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, he encourages potential writers to exclude revisions and to resist temptations of selectivity. Thus, throughout the pages of The Subterraneans, Kerouac has effectively inserted a subliminal plot for the reader on how to write in spontaneous prose.
Throughout his works, Kerouac encourages future writers to dismiss the conventions of punctuation and structure that can often constrain the mind. Instead, he promotes the idea of reaching into the crevices of one’s consciousness and writing exactly as one feels. In the Essentials of Writing Prose, Kerouac outlines a series of components that he deems most crucial when writing spontaneous prose. In Belief & Technique for Modern Prose, he suggests that future writers transcribe everything happening around them and to experience the world as observers. Thus, the techniques discussed in these outlines illustrate the inner-workings of Kerouac’s literary innovation that are demonstrated throughout The Subterraneans, which serves a primary example of how spontaneous prose is put into action.
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