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In 1983, pioneering scholar Ann Charters oversaw the publication of The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, a two-volume collection of entries on more than sixty figures associated with the movement. Released roughly a quarter century after groundbreaking work like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956) and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), this project staked a claim for the ongoing relevance of the Beats by presenting them not as a small clique of writer-friends, but as a more far-reaching literary movement and cultural phenomenon. In the spirit of such capaciousness, Charters brought Bob Dylan into the Beat fold, and contributing scholar Joseph Wenke argued that the songwriter merited inclusion because he shared Beat “attitudes toward social authority, politics, and drugs, emphasizing the primacy of the self and rejecting institutionally prescribed norms. … the style of Dylan’s most characteristic lyrics unmistakably reveals that Beat poetry was a strong influence on him as he developed into the most provocative and imaginative lyricist of his generation.”1 This two-pronged notion, that Dylan shared both social “attitudes” with the Beats and that his work bears the marks of their formal techniques and thematic preoccupations, has been a starting point for those who have thought about him in a Beat context.2
This chapter explains the origins of the Beat Generation. It recounts the killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, and how this event was fictionalized by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs in their novel, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.
This chapter examines Beat works of the 1960s to explain how they remade language use: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s novel Her, Gregory Corso’s novel The American Express, Ted Joans’s collage project The Hipsters, and William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-up collaboration, Minutes to Go.
This chapter looks at the significance of the Vietnam War and its impact on Beat writing. It begins with an analysis of Ginsberg's poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” and then looks at the work of Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, and Bob Dylan, among others.
This chapter focuses on women writers of the Beat movement, focusing in particular on Joyce Johnson and her novel Come and Join the Dance, and the poetry of Elise Cowen, Janine Pommy Vega, Kay Johnson, Barbara Moraff, and Carol Bergé.
This chapter charts the rise of the Beat novel by tracing an arc from Kerouac's first novel, The Town and the City, to Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. The chapter discusses a range of novels, from George Mandel's Flee the Angry Strangers and Chandler Brossard’s Who Walk in Darkness, to Kerouac’s On the Road and Visions of Cody, and Burroughs’s Junky, Queer, and Naked Lunch.
This chapter charts the rise of Beat poetry by looking at the early work of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It then looks at Ginsberg's “Howl” in depth, and then explains the significance of the obscenity trial surrounding “Howl.”