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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

William S. Burroughs: Selected full-text books and articles

William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989 By Robin Lydenberg; Jennie Skerl Southern Illinois University Press, 1991
William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination By Oliver Harris Southern Illinois University Press, 2003
The Philosophy of the Beats By 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 By Whiting, Frederick Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 52, No. 2, Summer 2006
Get off the Point: Deconstructing Context in the Novels of William S. Burroughs By 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 By Wermer-Colan, Alex Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 56, No. 4, Winter 2010
Word Dust: William Burroughs's Multimedia Aesthetic By 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 By 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 By 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).
Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews By Nicholas Zurbrugg University of Minnesota Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "William S. Burroughs" begins on p. 69
Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide By M. Keith Booker Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "William S. Burroughs: Naked Lunch" begins on p. 99
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