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“[A]n Exterior Air of Pilgrimage”: The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Department of English, Texas State University, 601 University Dr., San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117
Received: 1 September 2020 / Revised: 27 September 2020 / Accepted: 28 September 2020 / Published: 8 October 2020
While the Beats can be seen as critical actors in the environmental humanities, their works should be seen over the longue durée. They are not only an origin, but are also recipients, of an environmentally aware tradition. With Geoffrey Chaucer and Jack Kerouac, we see how a contemporary American icon functions as a text parallel to something generally seen as discrete and past, an instance of the modern embracing, interpreting, and appropriating the medieval. I argue that The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer influenced Kerouac’s shaping of On the Road. In the unpublished autograph manuscript travel diary dating from 1948–1949 (On the Road notebook), Kerouac imagines the novel as a quest tale, thinking of pilgrimage during its gestation. Further, Kerouac explicitly cites Chaucer. His novel can be seen not only in the tradition of Chaucer, but can bring out aspects of pilgrimage ecopoetics in general. These connections include structural elements, the spiritual development of the narrator, reliance on vernacular dialect, acute environmental awareness, and slow travel. Chaucer’s influence on Kerouac highlights how certain elements characteristic of pilgrimage literature persist well into the modern period, in a resilience of form, language, and ecological sensibility. View Full-Text
Keywords: pilgrimage; Geoffrey Chaucer; The Canterbury Tales; Jack Kerouac; On the Road; ecocriticism; ecopoetics; slow travel; vernacular pilgrimage; Geoffrey Chaucer; The Canterbury Tales; Jack Kerouac; On the Road; ecocriticism; ecopoetics; slow travel; vernacular
MDPI and ACS Style

Morrison, S.S. “[A]n Exterior Air of Pilgrimage”: The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Humanities 2020, 9, 117. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117

AMA Style

Morrison SS. “[A]n Exterior Air of Pilgrimage”: The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Humanities. 2020; 9(4):117. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117

Chicago/Turabian Style

Morrison, Susan S. 2020. "“[A]n Exterior Air of Pilgrimage”: The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road" Humanities 9, no. 4: 117. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117

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