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 their time-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 include Neal 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 of the 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 while preparing 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. ABOUT THE
SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University
Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.
These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new
subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis,
perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and
challenging topics highly readable.
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