The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Novel takes a ‘Road’ trip to campus

    "On the Road," the famous Jack Kerouac book, is traveling along the highways and byways of America, just like its writer. It will find its way to Marquette this fall, according to Matt Blessing, head of special collections and university archives in the Raynor Library.

    The manuscript of the beat-generation writer's most famous book will be on display in the Prucha Reading Room from Sept. 15 to Nov. 30.

    "On the Road" details the trips of Sal Paradise and his tumultuous relationship with his friend, Dean Moriarty. It is believed to closely parallel Kerouac's life. Since its publication in 1957, it has garnered influence and critical acclaim as the book best representing the Beat Generation literature.

    The idea to have the manuscript, which is in the form of a scroll, came to Marquette about a year and a half ago. A staffer of Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, called Marquette and said that Irsay had recently bought the scroll and was willing to lend it out to academic institutions, Blessing said.

    "The (beat writers) are receiving more attention in academia," Blessing said.

    Because of that, Marquette applied and was informed last month that the scroll would be coming to campus.

    "The Department of English gave much support, including some financial support, for the project," Blessing said.

    "It represents a significant resource for literary research," said John Su, assistant professor in the English department. "'On the Road' is perhaps the defining work of the Beat Generation and one of the most important works of American literature in the 20th century.

    "American literature has always been preoccupied by the idea that self-discovery demands travel; staying at home means stasis, compromise and spiritual death. Movement promises the possibility of freedom, our national obsession.

    "And Kerouac captures the spirit of a generation coming of age after World War II, a generation struggling to find its own place in the world."

    Because the manuscript is not in a normal page form and is instead on a 120-foot long scroll, composed of 10- to 15-foot sections of a special type of paper, extra care must be taken with it.

    Blessing said Irsay had special design cases created to display the scroll, and Marquette would be using some of them. Approximately 40 feet of the scroll at a time will be unrolled and displayed, while the rest of the scroll remains rolled up. The scroll was known to have visitors who read it from beginning to end, Blessing said.

    The scroll is already beginning a tour of other academic facilities. Currently it is at the Orange County History Center in Orlando, Fla.

    "We have had an overwhelming response to the exhibit, and it has received a lot of attention," said Shannon Larrimer, director of marketing for the History Center. "Hundreds showed up for the opening night of the exhibit."

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