Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film

Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film

Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film

Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the '50s, and Film

Synopsis

An interdisciplinary exploration of the Beat Generation, its intersections with mainstream & experimental film & the interactions of all of these with American society & the culture of the 1950s.

Excerpt

■ The purpose of this book is to explore the sensibility of the Beat Generation, its interactions with mainstream and experimental film during the years after World War II, and the interactions of all these with American society and culture of that era. The volume is not intended as a literary study, a historical overview, or a "film book" in the usual senses of those terms. It shifts among the fields of interest named in its title--Beat writing, the '50s, and film as a representative and influential mass medium--in order to illuminate the knotty relationships between establishment and antiestablishment thought during a complex and multifaceted period.

Interactions between the Beats and experimental art-making on one hand, and conventional society and media on the other, were marked by what might be called a logic of hostility, since both camps had ample reason to suspect and resent key aspects of the other's ideological stance. Hence, any attempt to understand the associations that linked them must travel down indirect, oblique, and ever-twisting pathways--seeking out connections as tenuous and tentative as the Beat enterprise itself, often detectable only through subtle impressions they left on the sociocultural fabric of '50s America as a whole.

To examine such tracings as thoroughly as possible, I have divided the study into two complementary parts. The first looks at Beat-related issues in terms of historical context and theoretical analysis, while the second focuses on specific works, artists, tendencies, and interactions. The devotion of more attention to some areas of concern (e.g., race) than to others (e.g., sexuality) is a result of the vast range of possibilities offered by the topic and does not indicate definitive conclusions as to the relative importance of these issues. In keeping with the Beat spirit, a certain amount of intuitive, associational, and (occasionally) spontaneous bop reasoning has been employed, meant to keep my arguments from becoming too solemn and to connect with the idiosyncratic pursuit of irresistible interests that so often characterizes Beat writing and experimental cinema themselves.

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