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Summary: Major Beat figures: --Jack Kerouac, novelist, author of On the Road --Neal Cassady, “life-artist,” model fo PowerPoint Presentation
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Summary: Major Beat figures: --Jack Kerouac, novelist, author of On the Road --Neal Cassady, “life-artist,” model fo

Summary: Major Beat figures: --Jack Kerouac, novelist, author of On the Road --Neal Cassady, “life-artist,” model fo

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Summary: Major Beat figures: --Jack Kerouac, novelist, author of On the Road --Neal Cassady, “life-artist,” model fo

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  1. Summary: Major Beat figures: --Jack Kerouac, novelist, author of On the Road --Neal Cassady, “life-artist,” model for hero of On the Road --Allen Ginsberg, poet, author of Howl --William Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch Historical context: Postwar suburbia (Pleasantville) The age of the Atomic Bomb Encouraged Romanticism in the form of Reject rationality for in the form of science it has brought us The prospect of the annihilation of the human race. Live for today for tomorrow may literally never come.

  2. Reject reason: The Beat Vision Quest Integrity & authenticity a la Thoreau Be a nonconformist Self-expression Reject wealth and conventional success Resist Puritanism: embrace Whitmanian Sensuality The World Will Whip you With its Displeasure Politics Beatniks


  4. The rational world , it seemed to the Beats, had turned on Itself. The rational world that threatened to extinguish the Human race. “The burden of my generation was the knowledge That something rational had caused all this…and that Nothing rational could end it.” --John Clellon Holmes, Leland p. 148 "We had gone beyond a point of no return- and we were ready for it, for a point of no return...We wanted voice and we wanted vision." -Michael McClure. Beat poet

  5. Reject reason & conventionalmythologies • We all thought experience itself was good. Any experience. That it could only be good to experience as much as possible. . . Anything that took us outside--that gave us the dimensions of the box we were caught in, an aerial view, as it were---showed us the exact arrangement of the maze we were walking, was a blessing. A small satori. Because we knew we were caught.” • -Diane Di Prima in Leland p. 149

  6. As early pioneers in the knowing, that when you lose your • reason, you attain highest perfect knowing • -Jack Kerouac, Book Of Blues, 55th Chorus, • Desolation Blues, Never deny the voice- no, never forget it, don't get lost mentally wandering in other spirit worlds or American or job worlds or advertising worlds or earth worlds." -Allen Ginsberg's vow to himself Kerouac is ''a great writer totally devoid of common sense.'' --Kenneth Rexroth

  7. On the Road was written in less than three weeks and demonstrated a fresh style. This new writing was spontaneous and seemed to be at times unedited. It possessed a strange energy that shocked more established writers but only brought Kerouac well-deserved recognition. D. H. Lawrence: "The most superb mystery we have hardly recognized: the immediate instant self. The quick of all time is the instant. The quick of all the universe, of all creation, is the incarnate, carnal self. Poetry gave us the clue: free verse: Whitman." Kerouac writes in this tradition. David Dempsey NY Times Feb 23 1956

  8. poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reasonliving without the repressive structures of the ego, without the oppressive conventions of respectablelife, was mirrored for Kerouac by his writing: it was stream-of-consciousness, he refused to revise feeling that revising was to allow the tame proper world to interfere with his spontaneity. Revising was the home of rationality...first drafts were the home of his true spontaneous deep-down self... The writer was not to revise his original impulses, for revision was a function of conditioning, a concession to standards of taste and propriety that belonged to the temporal community, and not to the universal strains that Kerouac sought to capture. --Tytell, Naked Angels 144

  9. ROMANTIC THEME: REJECT REASON, USE YOUR HEART In one’s art, • Don’t plan • Don’t edit • Open yourself to intuition and imagination • Remove the conscious mind from the process 2. Attempt to find ways to go beyond reason as the sole Method for understanding the world. Buddhist meditation Psychotropic drugs

  10. The cut-ups are simply random at one point. That is, • You take up scissors and cut the page, and how random • Is that? What appears to be random may not, in fact, be • Random at all. You have selected what you want to cut up. • After that, you select what you want to use.. . You can’t • Always get the best results. Some cut-ups are interesting • And some of them aren’t. There is the important matter of • Selection to consider. If I were to compose a poem out of • Cut-ups, I would just choose certain segments and parts • That do work, and the rest I’d throw away. Sometimes I • Have cut-up an entire page and only got one sentence from • It. • Burroughs denied that cut-ups resembled Tristan Tzara’s • “automatic writing” because they were controlled and • Without an element of the unconscious. Yet it’s hard to • See how cut-ups are to evade the control of the Word Police • If they aren’t random and evade conscious control.

  11. William Burroughs: The best writing seems to be done almost by accident but writers until the cut-up method was made explicit. . . had no way to produce the accident of spontaneity. You cannot will spontaneity. But you can introduce the unpredictable spontaneous factor with a pair of scissors.” From “The Cut-Up Method of Brian Gysin”

  12. Now listen to William Burroughs on how he Sees himself as a writer: “I am a recording instrument . . . I do Not pretend to impose ‘story’ ‘plot’ ‘continuity’ . . . Insofar as I succeed In Direct recording of certain areas of Psychic process I may have a limited Function . . . I am not an entertainer”

  13. Cut-ups are seen as replicating drug states: Non-linear, non rational, not ordered by any Clear principle, not under conscious control. They are a way of “deranging the sense” in Rimbaud’s sense (without having to actually do so as one does with psychotropic drugs.)

  14. Empty picture of a haunted ruin he lifted his hands sadly turned them out some boy just wrote last goodbye across the sky last goodbye whispering children on a dead star empty withered cut off exploded film scraps last awning flaps on the pier last man here now the youth structure of all your world broken twisted on electric fence at the barrier i have done the job here will he hear it a distant hand lifted 1920 window child fingers tap the glass all the dream people of past time are saying goodbye forever mister sad servant shadows of late afternoon against his back magic from The Third Mind, with Brion Gysin,1965

  15. for me, one of the guiding sentences of twenty years of my life, or maybe still, maybe always--is, "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination." That about says it.

  16. Wisdom comes from within. Any unconventional person is either following the lead of some other unconventional person or is listening to his heart. Ginsberg eventually: going inside=realizing that there is No inside, that it’s an illusion “The Western virtues of rationality and instrumentalism Were largely suspect to Burroughs. . . He shared the So-called primitive belief in an animistic universe which The skeptical West categorically rejected.” Ann Douglas, “Punching a Hole. . .”

  17. "Americans should know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls." -Walt Whitman Whitman was the poet of democracy, the great anti-elitist. Like Emerson and Thoreau, he believed that all the themes of the past could be found in the present, all the heroes of the past had modern counterparts. The only way to understand was to look within. Vision Quest

  18. The Beats were not rebels but questers, who had divorced themselves from a society devoted to making money. Walt Whitman had already warned that unless there was a spiritual infusion, America would wind up among the 'fabled damned.'” --Allen Ginsberg

  19. .Being “on the road”was Kerouac’s way of symbolizing leaving conventional, normal, proper, safe, respectable life behind. an adventure you can still have in America, just like Neal [Cassady] on the road. You can’t hop the freights anymore, but you can chase the Grateful Dead around. You can have all your tires blow out in some weird town in the Midwest, and you can get hell from strangers. You can have something that lasts throughout your life as adventures, the times you took chances. I think that’s essential to anybody’s life, and it’s harder and harder to do in America. --Jerry Garcia

  20. But it’s more than that too: It’s the central Beat metaphor for attempting to find Out the truth about life. It’s the Vision Quest: leaving behind normal frames Of reference, including and especially reason, which Confine one’s reality, to travel to places one had never Been before: either inside oneself, or to alternate realities.

  21. “What differentiated the characters in On the Road from the slum-bred petty Criminals. . .which have been something of a staple in modern American fiction-- what made them Beat. . . Was Kerouac’s insistence that actually they were on a quest and that the specific object of their quest was spiritual. . . If they seemed to Trespass most boundaries, legal and moral, it was only in the hope of finding a belief on the other side.” --John Clellon Holmes

  22. Kerouac’s approach to the journey is much closer to Whitman...Whitman’s persona travels just to learn that he doesn’t need to: “Henceforth I ask not for good fortune/I myself am good fortune.’Song of the Open Road” The road simply reflects back the self and it is a finer mirror than even the poet;s own language: you express me better than I can express myself.What the traveler learns about himself is the greatest marvel he encounters; I am larger, better, than I thought/I did not know I held so much goodness.

  23. The “spiritual quest” Cassady refers to reminds us of Emerson’s belief that human beings needed to journey Inside to discover their true natures before embarking On the search for authenticity. With the discovery by the Beats (and others) of psychotropic Drugs, this quest was aided chemically. Ginsberg, and later Timothy Leary, explicitly saw peyote, LSD, and other such Drugs as ways for people to shortcircuit the long arduous Process of self-discovery. Accompanying this is a reiteration of the Romantic rejection Of the supremacy of wisdom and conventional views of the World. Psychotropic drugs could help one break through into Visions of a genuine alternative reality. There were, it was held, More worlds than just the ordinary everyday one.

  24. William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through' narrow chinks of his cavern."

  25. To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large— this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual. [T]he man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend. ---Huxley, The Doors of Perception

  26. “I didn’t have an experience with opiates until I was 30 years old.. . What interested me was What interests anyone who takes drugs--altered Consciousness. Altered consciousness, of course, Is a writer’s stock in trade. If my conscious- ness was just completely conventional, no one Would be interested enough to read it, right? So there’s that aspect. . . But of course, Altering the consciousness need not be drug- Related either. We alter our consciousness all The time, from minute to minute. Altered Consciousness is a basic fact of life.” --Miles Davis

  27. There are a lot of different themes that were either catalyzed, adapted, inaugurated, transformed or initiated by the literary movement of the fifties and a community of friends from the forties. The central theme was a transformation of consciousness and as time unrolled, experiences that Kerouac, Burroughs and I had, related to this notion - at least to "widening the arena of consciousness." For example, this world is absolutely real and final and ultimate and at the same time, absolutely unreal and transitory and of the nature of dream-stuff, without contradiction. I think Kerouac had the most insightful grasp of that already by 1958. So that one spiritual insight - which is permanently universal - led to the exploration of mind or consciousness in any way shape or form.

  28. “I am a cosmonaut of inner space.” --Wm. Burroughs • Many traditions, especially in the East, • stress shutting up that interior monologue or see reason • as unidimensional. • Zen e.g. in search of Empty Mind • All ways to keep that Heavy, Reason , from tromping in and • Taking control, kicking all the more evasive and elusive and • Irrational sprites out of the head.

  29. [His] purpose was served better than he could have imagined by his access to a steady supply of marijuana. He smoked it constantly, bringing to light a stream of subconscious subjects. As one example, he became obsessed with the image of a rose, on a rainy night, traveling down the river to the sea. That image would later fit centrally into the symbolism of On the Road....[he was trying to] find some way to communicate the incommunicable...he wanted to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. “I want to fish as deep as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.” [Nicosia 324]


  31. .Being “on the road”was Kerouac’s way of symbolizing leaving conventional, normal, proper, safe, respectable life behind. an adventure you can still have in America, just like Neal [Cassady] on the road. You can’t hop the freights anymore, but you can chase the Grateful Dead around. You can have all your tires blow out in some weird town in the Midwest, and you can get hell from strangers. You can have something that lasts throughout your life as adventures, the times you took chances. I think that’s essential to anybody’s life, and it’s harder and harder to do in America. --Jerry Garcia

  32. “Standardization and mechanization and control of the Individual psyche seems now a fait accompli here. Spiritual activity or Art a strictly sideline deal and not A centrally important goal. Things run on a routine of unspiritualized mediocrity And when anyone with any special insight tries to Become a part it is a torture.” Allen Ginsberg, journal entry, fall 1954

  33. Common sense of the fifties was that normal=right The Beats insisted that this was not so, that there were many ways to live that were equally right, that it depended on the individual and that this idea was repressive of individuality: nothing was right period, only right for me and perhaps wrong for you.

  34. All of the Beats exemplify the Romantic belief that One should lead a life of authenticity. “the problem as [Kerouac] saw it was that while [his publishers] were on the “straight narrow easy roads” of business, he was on [the] “crooked road of prophecy.” Nicosia, Memory Babe, p. 353

  35. ‘I think the poet is the last person who is still speaking the truth when no one else dares to. I think the poet is the first person to begin the shaping and visioning of the new forms and the new consciousness when no one else has begun to sense it; I think these are two of the most essential human functions’ -Diane Di Prima

  36. I had my choicewhen I commenced. I bid neither for soft eulogies, big money returns, nor the approbation of existing schools and conventions...I have had my say entirely my own way and put it unerringly on record- the value thereof to be decided by time.” Walt Whitman quoted in Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman, p. 23

  37. What's inspiring here is her ongoing commitment to her work, despite the fact that she was often excluded from male literary circles--from poetry readings and poetry anthologies. "I was a poet," she writes. "I had work to do. It has carried me all these years."

  38. Burroughs had deliberately set out to live a certain way, and he would not be swayed from his purpose. He approached life with a sense of mission...He had great personal courage, bordering on foolhardiness ... He had those very Emersonian qualities of self-reliance and a personal point of view, as if following Emerson's advice to the scholars at Dartmouth College: "Be content with a little light, so it be your own. Explore and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry."

  39. The affluent post-Korean war society was settling down to a grimmer, more long term ugliness. At that moment, there really seemed to be no way out. As far as we knew, there was only a small handful of us-perhaps forty or fifty in the city-who knew what we knew: who raced about in Levis and work shirts, made art, smoked dope, dug the new jazz, and spoke a bastardization of the black argot. We surmised that there might be another fifty living in San Francisco and perhaps a hundred more scattered throughout the country: Chicago, New Orleans, etc. but our isolation was total and impenetrable, and we did not try to communicate with even this small handful of our confreres. Our chief concern was to keep our integrity (much time and energy went into defining the concept of the “sellout”) and to keep our cool: a hard clean edge of definition in the midst of the terrifying indifference and sentimentality around us-”media mush.” We looked to each other for comfort, for praise, for love, and shut out the rest of the world. Diane di Prima, Memoir of a Beatnik

  40. colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets is each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time---- Jack Kerouac "Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”--Kerouac And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." --Anais Nin


  42. “I think one should write, as nearly as possible, as if he were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerely putting on paper that which he saw and experienced and loved and lost; what his passing thoughts were and his sorrows and desires." -Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac

  43. Growing up in the fifties, you had to figure it out for yourself— which she did, and stayed open—as a woman, uninterested in any possibility of static investment or solution. Her search for human center is among the most moving I have witnessed.’ -Robert Creeley, 1973

  44. AG: “It’s the ability to commit to write the same way that You . . . Are! You have many writers who have preconceived Ideas about what literature is supposed to be and their ideas Seem to exclude that which makes them most charming in Private conversation. Their faggishness or their campiness, Or their neurasthenia, or their solitude, or their goofiness,or Their--even masculinity--at times. Because they think that They’re gonna write something that sounds like something Else that they’ve read before, instead of sounds like them, Or comes from their own life. interview in Paris Review, 1966 This is now told to young writers in every writing program In the country I’d guess --find your own voice-- but it wasn’t so in the 50’s. The underground finds its way to the mainstream

  45. It's her [di Prima’s] poetry all over again: gritty, surreal, heartbreaking, fluid, and ever returning to her theme of what it means to be a woman and how she sought to find that meaning. This is especially gripping in terms of being a bisexual street poet (and later a single mother) in 1950s America. In an era when "gray was the color and vanilla the flavor" -- when any deviation in hemline or hair length labeled you a communist, her differences were painful. Even the New York beats had a male chauvinist hierarchy that considered themselves far too good for Diane's realism, street language, slang.

  46. Ginsberg insisted that if he were to be able to Depict an authentic flow of life of real people, he Must be able to use the words that real people Use, including words that may offend people. He denied that there should be one kind of formal Polite language for use in literature and another kind Of ordinary language to be used in every day life. This is exactly what Whitman did in the 19th century.

  47. AG: “In other words, if I use. . .fornication words in Poetry or fellatio words in poetry…it might be like An ordinary human activity which everybody Recognizes as being their own. William F. Buckley: “Well, speak for yourself.” Firing Line Sept. 24, 1968

  48. I'm simply trying to write according to the directions of Walt Whitman, who said he hoped the poets of the future would specialize in CANDOR. I'm trying to record my experiences candidly, and that right must be protected, because my experiences are more or less parallel with other people's --Ginsberg, interview 1996