Sunday, July 13, 2014

OFOTCN: a blast from my past

One Flew occupies a special place in my heart and my past. During my first college experience (I've had several, but that's another story), I received a B.A. in English (British fiction, actually). For my M.A., I decided to work on a Popular Culture emphasis.

This was NOT acceptable back in the 1970s -- that's like saying I wanted to study comic books or romance novels or ... you get the idea.

I was lucky. I had a thesis committee that was all about breaking the mold and going for what you wanted. On my committee I had a scholar of American Western fiction (Zane Gray, if you will), a feminist scholar, and a professor interested in Vonnegut, Sukenick,  Kosinski, Federman, and other innovative authors, many of whom I met (and with whom I consumed a great deal of alcoholic beverages. But that's another story).

I decided to do my M.A. thesis on "The Popular Culture Hero in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". I did a bunch of research on comic book heroes and archetypes, Ken Kesey and his cronies (such a life!), and other rather arcane subjects. Of course, I didn't have a lot of bibliographic citations because, well, nobody was taking comic books or Kesey seriously at that time. I guess I broke new ground (I've actually been cited in other scholarly works, but that's another story).

Long story short: I defended my thesis rather well, I think, by equating RPM (Randal Patrick McMurphy) to the classic American hero -- our heroes aren't gods and myths, but born from Paul Bunyan, Captain America, and Johnny Appleseed -- rebels who fight for Right and the American Way. Big Chief is the quintessential sidekick, Nurse Ratchet represents the repression of European morals, the mirror is symbolic of ....

You get the idea. The review committee accepted my defense and, lo and behold, I had an M.A. in American fiction. 

So RPM, Big Chief, and that whole crew have a special spot in my past. It was one of the first times I bucked the system and won. 

It certainly wasn't the last.

(new book out: a great summer read!)


Jannine Gallant said...

Good for you, JL! Way to shed a little light on a then new topic. My daughter and I were just discussing how every topic ever discussed on any classic books is available online. The kids just have to look them up to get ideas for papers. My thought--why not give them a book to write about they can't find online. Create some new classics! You did just that.

Alicia Dean said...

Wow...very cool! I've never read the book or seen the movie. Can you believe it? I can understand why you'd have a warm fuzzie for it though. :)

Juli D. Revezzo said...

That's incredibly cool, J.L.! And a great movie, I agree, so much depth in there. Good for you.