Speaker: George Mouratidis
While the "road" novels of Jack Kerouac get the lion's share of critical and popular attention and, like the author himself, serve as iconic touchstones of the peripatetic mythos associated with the Beat Generation writers and postwar American counterculture, this lecture examines Kerouac through the lens of diaspora – as a writer whose vision of America, at once romantic and melancholy, was that of an outsider, looking in. Kerouac's sense of "home" – growing up in the working-class French-Canadian and Greek migrant community of Lowell, Massachusetts – for him served as a key counterpoint to the open road and urban bohemias for which he is most celebrated. This perpetual dialogue between "Loswell" and "the road" established the fundamental dualism and ambivalence that informed and shaped the Kerouac's self-identity, language, and his art – a conflict that ism, of course, at the heart of the migrant experience. By focusing on the impact of Lowell's Greek community on Kerouac's life and literature, particularly his close association with the Sampas family, this lecture seeks to complicate the "King of the Beats", and by so doing, reveal the richness and nuance of "Beat" writing and culture in general.
George Mouratidis is a Greek-born poet, translator and researcher. He has taught cultural studies at RMIT University and American literature at The University of Melbourne, where he co-founded the Living Poetry Sessions with writer-poet Lucy Van and is completing his doctorate on the politics and poetics of the Beat Generation. He was a contributing editor of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: The Original Scroll and is the translator of Noted Transparencies (Owl, 2016) by Greek-language poet Nikos Nomikos, with whom he continues to work closely. His debut poetry collection, Angel Frankenstein (Soul Bay Press, 2018) was published last year.