The Beats: A Very Short Introduction

Paperback | August 22, 2013

byDavid Sterritt

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In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Beat Generation writers revolutionized American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society. They and their followers took aim at the hypocrisy and taboos of theirtime - particularly those involving sex, race, and class - in such provocative works as Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), Allen Ginsberg's Howl (1956), and William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch (1959). This volume offers a concise overview of the social, cultural, and aesthetic sensibilities of the Beats, bringing out the similarities that connected them and also the many differences that made them a loosely knit collective rather than an organized movement. Principal figures in the saga includeNeal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, Carolyn Cassady, and Gary Snyder; locations range from Greenwich Village and San Francisco to Mexico, western Europe, and North Africa; topics include Beat approaches to literature, drugs, sexuality, art, music, and religion.Members of the Beat Generation hoped that their radical rejection of materialism, consumerism, and regimentation would inspire others to purify their lives and souls as well; yet they urged the remaking of consciousness on a profoundly inward-looking basis, cultivating "the unspeakable visions ofthe individual," in Kerouac's phrase. The idea was to revolutionize society by revolutionizing thought, not the other way around. This book explains how the Beats used their drastic visions and radical styles to challenge dominant values, fending off absorption into mainstream culture whilepreparing ground for the larger, more explosive social upheavals of the 1960s. More than half a century later, the Beats' impact can still be felt in literature, cinema, music, theater, and the visual arts.

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In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Beat Generation writers revolutionized American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society. They and their followers took aim at the hypocrisy and taboos of theirtime - particularly those involving sex, race...

David Sterritt is Professor Emeritus of Theater and Film at Long Island University. He is Chair of the National Society of Film Critics, Adjunct Professor at the School of the Arts at Columbia University and Adjunct Professor of Art History at Maryland Institute College of Art.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 6.88 × 4.38 × 0.68 inPublished:August 22, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199796777

ISBN - 13:9780199796779

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Table of Contents

List of illustrationsPreface1. Origins and essences2. Beats, beatniks, bohemians, and all that jazz3. The writers and the books4. The Beats and popular culture5. The Beat legacyReferencesFurther readingIndex