Ken Kesey and literary shamanism

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matthew W. Driscoll (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
John Clifford

Abstract: This project aligns Ken Kesey’s work as a novelist with his work as a counter-cultural leader in the Sixties. In particular, Kesey’s fiction is influenced by his experimentation with psychedelic plants and chemicals, which began when he volunteered for government-sponsored research on psychedelics. We see this influence in a number of ways. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle P. McMurphy’s entrance onto the psychiatric ward has similar effects on Chief Bromden as a psychedelic substance can have on the user. Through an exploration of his own wounded ego and McMurphy’s support, Chief Bromden gradually recovers his sanity. In Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey employs a complex narrative structure in which the various narrators engage in a continuous dialogue with one another. This narrative structure demonstrates a purported psychedelic experience of intersubjectivity, an experience where individuals in a group setting experience heightened awarenesses of other individuals within the group. Finally, I show how Kesey’s abilities with language and his use of psychedelics equip him with two significant tools of shamanism. Kesey is a literary shaman.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Language: English
Date: 2009
Kesey Ken One flew over the cuckoo's nest--Criticism and interpretation, Kesey Ken Sometimes a great notion--Criticism and interpretation, Shamanism in literature
Kesey, Ken. One flew over the cuckoo's nest -- Criticism and interpretation
Kesey, Ken. Sometimes a great notion -- Criticism and interpretation
Shamanism in literature

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