What Is the Beat Generation?
Beat generation, also known as the Beat movement, refers to the 1950’s social and literary movement in America. It is generally claimed to be a literary thought that originated in the 1940s, gained popularity in the 1950s, and transcended into the hippie culture of the 1960s.
The movement is inspired by the post-world war era, especially during the Eisenhower years of 1953 -1961.
Who Wrote the Book ‘A Vision’?
- A. Jack Kerouac
- B. William Butler Yeats
- C. Allen Ginsberg
- D. T.S.Eliot
Beat Generation History
The term ‘beat generation’ is believed to be coined by Jack Kerouac in his 1957 novel ‘On the Road’. A young Kerouac along with poet and writer Allen Ginsberg began debating something called ‘the New Vision’ in 1945. Kerouac and Ginsberg (found in the picture above) were inspired by William Butler Yeats’ prose ‘A Vision’ and began exploring new areas of literature and life that would later become key to the Beat Generation.
It is notable that a lot of the authors and poets belonging to the movement had the same social circle. Many claim New York City as the center point of their socialization. Some of the well-known beat generation figures like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr met and became friends at Columbia University.
The movement began with the above authors when they were a bunch of young students. They were fuelled by a passion for philosophy and arts, and collaborative writing. Beat generation authors were heavily into surveying their city’s nightlife and experimented with psychedelic drugs as part of their creative process. This also meant that the poets and authors were mostly of the liberal mindset. Adhering to political ideology and religion was rarely found in their lives. They strongly opposed the post-world war American ideology of economic materialism.
The beat generation’s style of writing is free form, collaborative, improvisational, and inspired by their unconventional way of living. Their writings are heavily influenced by the weariness experienced by most youngsters in post-war America. This is also what Jack Kerouac mentions in his ‘On the Road’ novel “You know, this is really a beat generation … More than the feeling of weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw.”
Beat Generation Writers
The term “beat” was used by Herbert Huncke. Huncke along with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs are considered original beat writers. Gregory Corso, John Clellon Holmes, Neal Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, and Michael McClure also joined the movement in the mid-1950s.