On the Road and On a Mountaintop

*This text is a sample of writing from my postgraduate thesis project. My project was a reader in which I selected five original essays from the post-war American travel magazine, Holiday, introducing and contextualizing writing from the 1940s – 1960s. Here is a sample of my introduction to an essay about heavenly isolation entitled ‘Alone on a Mountaintop,’ written by Jack Kerouac in Holiday’s October 1958 issue. 

KEROUAC

 

Long before those who formed the Beat generation were regarded the pivotal generation of disillusioned youth, there were others. Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, amongst the original restless, traveling souls; and on the American front, a young Walt Whitman first praised the allure of youthful freedom in his 1856 poem “Song of the Open Road.” Although they were not the first, the members of the Beat Generation are remembered as pioneers of post-war changes in American literature and culture. The scene was set during the early 1940s in New York City at Columbia University. This is where the core members of the Beat movement – Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac – met, shared their work, intertwined and influenced each other’s lives. The group claimed they were on a spiritual journey – a quest to live a more meaningful existence, distanced from the shallow, narrow-minded conformity and consumerism of American life in the 1940s and 1950s.