William S. Burroughs and the American Frontier

I wrote my PhD on William Burroughs between 1993 and 1997. It was supervised by Clive Meachen at the University of Wales, Aberstwyth. Literature and research aren't my job anymore, so I include the links below under a Creative Commons license, in the hope they can be of assistance to others. Here is the summary I wrote all those years ago. I hope the actual PhD is more fun than the summary suggests.

This thesis considers the representations of frontiers in the early writing of William S. Burroughs. Burroughs' early writing is examined in the order in which it was written, beginning with Junkie (1953), written in 1951-1952, and later published as Junky(1977), and then examining Queer(1986), written in 1952, The Yage Letters(1963), the original letters for which were written in 1953, Interzone (1989), derived from materials largely written between 1945 and 1957, and The Naked Lunch(1959), later Naked Lunch, which was largely written between 1954 and 1959. The thesis will also draw on Burroughs' correspondence, primarily the material published in The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945 to 1959(1993).

The definitions of frontier used in the thesis are derived from historical, literary, cultural and psychological sources. The historical and cultural sources are primarily taken from definitions within American Western History, and the shifting employment of the term "frontier" is traced from Frederick Jackson Turner's "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (1894) to Patricia Nelson Limerick's "The Adventures of the Frontier in the Twentieth Century" (1994). The literary and psychological sources include Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel (1960) and Richard Slotkin's Regeneration Through Violence (1973). The psychoanalytical field employed by Fiedler and Slotkin is updated by reference to a number of key feminist theorists, including Jane Flax, Julia Kristeva and Alice A. Jardine. Burroughs' representation of frontiers will also be compared with those found in the writing of Herman Melville, who will be seen as a precursor to Burroughs in terms of their shared class, gender and race.

This book contains the following chapters: