“Squinting through Gunsmoke”: William Burrough’s Errant, Worlded West

  • Neil Campbell, Dr U. Derby
Keywords: Errantly, The American West, Worlding, Cut-Ups


William Burroughs had been challenging closed worlds since the 1960s. Haunted by the West, born in St Louis, Missouri and dying in Lawrence, Kansas, it was as if he knew America’s inheritance was seeded on the frontier and his characters were caught up in a conditioned cycle of mythic action. His fiction, with its wild experimentation, hallucinogenic cut-up forms, and extreme states of dislocation strove to interrupt such mythic systems and cycles through what I term in this chapter errantry. Burroughs’ fiction presents alternative, errant worldings – carnivalesque plural worlds that refuse to fit into a presupposed pattern, always wandering astray from prescribed paths.


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