Beat Generation

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The Beat Generation
• The Beat Generation is a
term used to describe both:
– a group of American writers
who came to prominence in
the late 1950s and early
1960s.
– the cultural phenomena that
they wrote about and inspired
(later sometimes called
"beatniks").
Origins…
• Author Jack Kerouac
introduced the phrase "Beat
Generation" in 1948.
• Kerouac was generalizing
from his social circle to
characterize the underground,
anti-conformist youth
gathering in New York at that
time.
• The press often used the term
"Beat Generation" in
reference to a small group of
writers…
Jack Kerouac
• Amongst the best known
of the writers known as
the Beat Generation.
• Kerouac's work was
popular, but received little
critical acclaim during his
lifetime. Today, he is
considered an important
and influential writer who
inspired others.
• Best known for On the
Road (1958).
On the Road
• Based on the spontaneous road
trips of Kerouac and his friends
across mid-century America.
• It is often considered a defining
work of the postwar Beat
Generation that was inspired by
jazz, poetry, and drug
experiences.
• When the book was originally
released, the New York Times
hailed it as "the most
beautifully executed, the
clearest and most important
utterance" of Kerouac's
generation.
Allen Ginsberg
• Another well known writer in
the Beat Generation.
• Best known for Howl (1956),
a long poem celebrating his
friends of the Beat
Generation and attacking
what he saw as the
destructive forces of
materialism and conformity
in the United States at the
time.
Howl
• Written in 1955; it consisted of 3
parts.
• Famous line from:
• I saw the best minds of my
generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical
naked, dragging themselves
through the negro streets at
dawn looking for an angry fix;
Angel-headed hipsters burning
for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo
in the machinery of night.
William S. Burroughs
• Primary member of the
Beat Generation, he was
an avant-garde author
who affected popular
culture as well as
literature.
• Much of his work is
semi-autobiographical,
drawn from his
experiences as an
opiate addict.
Naked Lunch
• Time magazine included
the novel in its TIME 100
Best English-language
Novels from 1923 to 2005.
• Drawn from Burroughs
own experience in and his
addiction to drugs.
• The way that the novel is
written is interesting, with
many sub-stories all
feeding into the plot.
Gregory Corso
• American poet, youngest
of the inner circle of Beat
Generation writers.
• Spent several of this youth
in jail where he read
constantly.
• Met Ginsberg (who
recognized Corso’s talent)
when he got out jail.
• 1st Beat writer to actual be
published.
Importance…
• The Beats represented a
part of American society
that rebelled against the
status quo of the 1950’s.
• Echoes of the Beat
Generation can be seen
throughout many other
modern subcultures,
such as "hippies" and
"punks".
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