The Beat Generation in the Social Context of America of the 1950s

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  • Topic: Beat Generation, Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac
  • Pages : 4 (1240 words )
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  • Published : April 1, 2007
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"Being against what the Beat Generation stands for has to do with denying that incoherence is superior to precision; that ignorance is superior to knowledge; that the exercise of mind and discrimination is a form of death…" (N.Podhoretz "The Know-Nothing Bohemians")

Like the „Lost Generation" of the 1920s, the American „Beat Generation names both literary current and a broader cultural phenomenon or mood. Rejecting the conformism and stress on "normality" of the Truman and Eisenhover years, the Beats emphasised an openness to varieties of experience beyond the limits of middle-class society. In this post-war era where the dominant culture was desperate for reassuring planned order, The Beats were a manifestation of a strong intellectual undercurrent calling for spontanuity, an end for psychological repression, a romantic desire for a more chaotic, Dionysian existence. Today we perceive the Beat Movement as one of the most significant, and certainly the best-known, social and cultural movement of the 1950s, with its essential character: a passive resistance to "square society", an attraction to "far-out experiences" (sex, drugs, jazz) as more authentic than conventional forms of experience, a predilection for eccentric forms of expression, the absolute belief in "the creative power of the individual soul" and a more general insistence upon the self-determined and significant attribute of anatomy of the individual. There is also, however, another way of looking at the representatives of the Beat Movement. Although they found many followers among young people (which was later reflected by the emergance of the "Hippies" in 1960s), for the major part of American society the Beats constituted merely a "community of outlaws" united by their members' taste for unorthodox and illegal sexuality and drug use. What I would like to focus on in this paper is this 'other' way of perceiving the Beats...
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