William S. Burroughs

Burroughs, William Seward

William Seward Burroughs, 1914–97, American novelist, b. St. Louis, grad. Harvard, 1936, moved to New York City, 1943. He was an elder member of the beat generation. Junkie (1953), originally published under the pseudonym William Lee, and Queer (written 1953, pub. 1985), both written while he and his wife were living in Mexico, are autobiographical accounts of his drug addiction, homosexual experiences, and various instances of violence, most chillingly the accidental killing of his wife (he attempted to shoot a glass off her head and missed). His best-known novel, Naked Lunch (1959, in Paris), is a surrealistic depiction of the addict's existence. Works written after Naked Lunch, e.g., The Soft Machine (1961) and Nova Express (1964), are mostly "cut-ups," word collages scissored from columns or portions of print. Burroughs's violent and bizarre fiction, in which most characters are depraved, insane, or both, contributed to the redefinition of the novel's style and permissible subject matter. Later works include Cities of the Red Night (1981), Place of the Dead Roads (1984), Interzone (1989, a collection of pieces from the mid-1950s), and the semiautobiographical My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995).

See biographies by T. Morgan (2012) and B. Miles (2014).



See his journals, The Retreat Diaries (1976) and the posthumously published Last Words (ed. by J. Grauerholz, 1999); O. Harris, ed., The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959 (1993) and B. Morgan, ed, Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959–1974 (2012); biographies by T. Morgan (1988) and B. Miles (1993 and 2014); studies by J. Skerl (1985) and R. Lydenberg (1987); J. Garcia-Robles and D. C. Schecter, The Stray Bullet: William S. Burroughs in Mexico (2013); H. Brookner, dir, Burroughs: The Movie (documentary, 1983).

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

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989
Robin Lydenberg; Jennie Skerl.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1991
William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination
Oliver Harris.
Southern Illinois University Press, 2003
The Philosophy of the Beats
Sharin N. Elkholy.
University Press of Kentucky, 2012
Librarian’s tip: "William Burroughs as Philosopher: From Beat Morality to Third Worldism to Continental Theory" begins on p. 267
Monstrosity on Trial: The Case of Naked Lunch
Whiting, Frederick.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 52, No. 2, Summer 2006
Get off the Point: Deconstructing Context in the Novels of William S. Burroughs
Bolton, Micheal Sean.
Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 40, No. 1, Winter 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Implicating the Confessor: The Autobiographical Ploy in William S. Burroughs's Early Work
Wermer-Colan, Alex.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 56, No. 4, Winter 2010
Word Dust: William Burroughs's Multimedia Aesthetic
Punday, Daniel.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 40, No. 3, September 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation
Gregory Stephenson.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Gnostic Vision of William S. Burroughs"
A Grenade with the Fuse Lit: William S. Burroughs and Retroactive Utopias in Cities of the Red Night
Grattan, Sean.
Utopian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, January 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Narrative after Deconstruction: Structure and the Negative Poetics of William Burroughs's Cities of the Red Night
Punday, Daniel.
Style, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 1995
Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews
Nicholas Zurbrugg.
University of Minnesota Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "William S. Burroughs" begins on p. 69
Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide
M. Keith Booker.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "William S. Burroughs: Naked Lunch" begins on p. 99
The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America
Roger Kimball.
Encounter Books, 2000
Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film
David Sterritt.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
William S. Burroughs, `Beat Generation' Figure, Dies at 83
Ap.
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 3, 1997
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