Don't Cut the Mother Loose too Soon: Reevaluating the Art of Ken Kesey's 'Jail Journal'
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This thesis addresses the topic of Ken Kesey's Jail Journal, a fully illustrated narrative poster series that was constructed during the author's 1967 incarceration in the San Mateo County Correctional System. Not published until nearly forty years after its completion, Kesey' s Jail Journal remains a relatively unknown work to this day. Part of the reason for this work's obscurity can be attributed to its inaccurate categorization as a piece of literature. Through close examination of the Jail Journal's many different parts and genres, this paper demonstrates how the work would be better suited classified as an example of an artist's book; a composition which consists of multiple stylistic and compositional elements, and which is not bound by a single restrictive categorization. Following a model of overlapping classification for the artist's book genre first outlined by Johanna Drucker in her book The Century of Artists' Books, Kesey's Jail Journal is broken down and evaluated in this thesis based on its five most prominent functions as an artist's book. Discussions of the journal's roles as document, written and illustrated narrative, agent of social change, and as a unique and auratic object formulate the different sections of this paper, and provide support for the work's classification as an artist's book.