Monday, March 05, 2012

The American Novel Since 1945 with Amy Hungerford: Jack Keroauc 'On the Road'

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Yale Professor Amy Hungerford's lecture on Kerouac's On the Road begins by contrasting the Beats' ambition for language's direct relation to lived experience with a Modernist sense of difficulty and mediation. She goes on to discuss the ways that desire structures the novel, though not in the ways that we might immediately expect. The very blatant pursuit of sex with women in the novel, for example, obscures the more significant desire for connection among men, particularly the narrator Sal's love for Dean Moriarty. The apparent desire for the freedom of the open road, too, Hungerford argues, exists in a necessary conjunction with the idealized comforts of a certain middle-class American domesticity, signaled by the repeated appearance of pie.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Beats: Similarities and Differences to Literary Modernism
09:46 - Chapter 2. A New Use of Language: Mirroring the Speed of Experience
18:13 - Chapter 3. "The Prophet of 'Wow'": The Language of Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady
29:48 - Chapter 4. Dean and Sal: Tangled Sexual Tensions
33:56 - Chapter 5. The Hunger Metaphor: The American Culture of Consumption
40:21 - Chapter 6. Modes of Craftedness: Carlo Marx's Papier-Mache Mountains

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Spring 2008.

In this second lecture on On The Road, Yale Professor Amy Hungerford addresses some of the obstacles and failures to the novel's high ambitions for achieving American community through an immediacy of communication. Sal Paradise's desire to cross racial boundaries, for example, seems ultimately more exploitative than expansive; Dean's exuberant language of "Yes!" and "Wow!" devolves into meaningless gibberish. And yet the novel's mystical vision of something called "America" persists, a cultural icon that continues to engage the interest of readers, scholars, and artists. Among these latter is the digital art collaborative Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, with whose online work DAKOTA Hungerford concludes the class.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Kerouac's Mythical America: Trans-historical Communities
22:03 - Chapter 2. Defining American Identity: Sal's Illusory Vision of Mystical Oneness
30:01 - Chapter 3. Dean and Sal, Again: The Theme of Sadness
41:12 - Chapter 4. The Publication History: Creating a Literary Object

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