Representing the Zeitgeist: A Foucauldian Reading of Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans
Keywords:Michel Foucault, Jack Kerouac, Institution, Power, Surveillance, Unfreedom, disillusionment
This study is an attempt at reading Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterraneans” in the light of the theory of Michel Foucault. “The Subterraneans”, written in 1958, grapples with the life of Leo, the alter ego of Jack Kerouac himself. The actions and interactions of its main characters, Leo Percepied and Mardou Fox, are observed and analyzed, focusing on the political philosophy of Foucault, specifically his conceptions of power, power relations, institutions, and surveillance to shed light on the ideas of Kerouac, the spokesperson of the Beat Generation. Kerouac’s novel represents the spirit of the age of a people who sought change, difference, and disobedience; the main characters are antiheroes who challenge their prisonlike structure of the society. In contrast, the government has the upper hand by means of its distinct and overlapping institutions that not only neutralize such acts or resistances but make normal and ordinary those individuals who were themselves the promoters and examples of abnormality. Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterraneans” is characterized by unfreedom, obedience, unthinking men, individuals without individuality, and disillusionment.