Beat Generation

beat generation, term applied to certain American artists and writers who were popular during the 1950s. Essentially anarchic, members of the beat generation rejected traditional social and artistic forms. The beats sought immediate expression in multiple, intense experiences and beatific illumination like that of some Eastern religions (e.g., Zen Buddhism). In literature they adopted rhythms of simple American speech and of bop and progressive jazz. Among those associated with the movement were the novelists Jack Kerouac and Chandler Brossard, numerous poets (e.g., Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gregory Corso), and others, many of whom worked in and around San Francisco. Perhaps the only true nihilist of the group was William S. Burroughs. During the 1960s "beat" ideas and attitudes were absorbed by other cultural movements, and those who practiced something akin to the "beat" lifestyle were called "hippies."

See B. Cook, The Beat Generation (1971, repr. 1982), J. Tytell, Naked Angels (1976, repr. 1991), E. H. Foster, Understanding the Beats (1992), D. Sterritt, Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the 50s, and Film (1998), and J. Campbell, This Is the Beat Generation (2001); film documentary, The Source (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation
Gregory Stephenson.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1990
The Philosophy of the Beats
Sharin N. Elkholy.
University Press of Kentucky, 2012
Breaking the Rule of Cool: Interviewing and Reading Women Beat Writers
Nancy M. Grace; Ronna C. Johnson.
University Press of Mississippi, 2004
Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film
David Sterritt.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
Screening the Beats: Media Culture and the Beat Sensibility
David Sterritt.
Southern Illinois University Press, 2004
Historical Dictionary of the 1960s
James S. Olson; Samuel Freeman.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Beats" begins on p. 45
The Columbia History of American Poetry
Jay Parini; Brett C. Millier.
Columbia University Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "Beat Poetry and the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance" begins on p. 581
Taking It like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture
David Savran.
Princeton University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "The Beats as Cultural Producers" begins on p. 53
The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America
Roger Kimball.
Encounter Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "The Church of the Beats" begins on p. 41, and "The Legacy of the Beats" begins on p. 59
Emerson's Contemporaries and Kerouac's Crowd: A Problem of Self-Location
Bradley J. Stiles.
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "From Emerson to the Beat Generation"
American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation
Jonah Raskin.
University of California Press, 2004
The View from on the Road: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac
Omar Swartz.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999
William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989
Robin Lydenberg; Jennie Skerl.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1991
Cold War Correspondents: Ginsberg, Kerouac, Cassady, and the Political Economy of Beat Letters
Harris, Oliver.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 46, No. 2, Summer 2000
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