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The Beat Generation

The Beat Generation

Historical Backgrounds

  • Directly after WWII
  • Baby Boomers
  • Call for a return to stable family life

NYC Beats

  • Jack Kerouac
  • Alan Ginsberg
  • William Burroughs
  • Neal Cassidy
  • Gregory Corso

San Francisco Beats

  • Gary Snyder
  • Philip Whalen
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Historical and Cultural Influences on the Beats

Jazz Culture

Reaction against Mainstream America, Post WWII

  • Planned orderly life
  • Conservative
  • Consumer culture
  • Marginalization of minorities/homosexuality

Beat Culture

  • Drug/Alcohol abuse
  • Shiftlessness (hitchhiking)
  • Sexual Freedom
  • Treatment of Women (Carries over into the hippie era)

Artistic and Literary Influences on the Beats

  • Romantic Poets
  • American Transcendentalism
  • Dadaism (Political, anti-art)
    • mid-to-post WWI
    • Anti-war: Attributed to¬†bourgeoisie, colonialism, nationalism
      • Specifically, the “logic” of these things
    • Anti-art demonstrations (“The Fountaine”)
  • Surrealism
    • Influenced by Dada, but less overtly political.
    • Dreams, the subconscious, anti-logic strain from Dada
    • Automatic writing/painting/sketching (akin to jazz improv. & spontaneous prose)
  • Jazz Improvisation

The Characteristics–Beat Style

  • Spontaneous
  • Examples in Kerouac
  • Spiritual (Buddhism-Catholicism-Judaism)
  • Redefining Form (The breath)
  • Back to Nature
    • Escape from the oppressive post-war social rules

Beat–The Word

The Legacy

  • Bridge between the modern and the postmodern
  • Some of the beat philosophy rejected high modernism
  • Hippie Era
    • Tenuous relationship, and grudging
  • Music:
    • The Beatles, Morrison, Dylan
    • Punks: Ginsberg and the Clash; Burroughs–Sonic Youth, REM, Kurt Cobain
  • The Poetry Slam
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