WiSe 13/14: Icons of Dissent or What was the Beat Generation
After the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road in 1957 and the obscenity trial against Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" in the same year, Beat Generation literature became subject to a surge of public ... read more
After the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road in 1957 and the obscenity trial against Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" in the same year, Beat Generation literature became subject to a surge of public interest, catalyzed by Kerouac's and Ginsberg's publicity skills. The Beats' novels, poems and performances became a subject of mass media and popular culture before they were admitted into the literary canon, commented on mostly by those either excited or horrified by the fad. The group which was labeled as the "Beat Generation" expressed the alienation of dissidents in a culture polarized by the Cold War fear of communist infiltration and hostility toward nonconformist lifestyles. Until today, readings of Beat Generation literature more often than not are either subsumed under an aesthetic of resistance or depend on autobiographical interpretations of their authors' rebellion against middle class social norms.
In this seminar, we will read the texts which have been canonized as exemplary to the Beat phenomenon, taking into account the difficulties this canonization has posed. We will analyze how as an escape from middle class social norms, Beat Generation artists focused on personal authenticity and how this outlet depended on an allegorization of racialized and social others. Apart from the construction of race and gender and their role in canon formation, we will also address the question of how to read the Beats as located in their historical and cultural time and place of origin instead of as timeless icons of rebelliousness. Please make yourself familiar with Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road and William Burroughs's Naked Lunch in advance.
We will read the following novels/ poem collections in this seminar:
Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)
Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems (1956)
William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)