Expository Essay Sample on Beat Generation Approach to Literature and Art

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Harvey Mudd College
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The beat generation, also called as the beat movement was an American art and literature group that started in the 1950's. The movement supporters who were styled as "beat" meaning "weary" and connoted the musical sense "beatific" and sarcastically called "beatniks," showed their love for the group through the adoption of almost same uniform of dress, manners and "hip" slang borrowed from the jazz musicians. Immediately after the Second World War, there was an extensive reassessment of the structure of the society hence the rampant materialism in the society hence the formation of the Beat generation (Waldman 64). There emerged capitalism which was destructive to the human spirit and also unethical. In addition to their dissatisfaction with the culture, they railed against the boiling prudery of the parents generation. The parent generation on sexuality was seen as unhealthy and damage to the psyche. The group was apolitical and was not concerned with the social issues and advocated for their personal release, purification, and enlightenment through various sensory awareness that could be induced by sex, drugs or castigations of the Zen Buddhism. Champions of the Beat generation like Paul Goodman found joy and purpose of the contemporary society which shows sufficient justification for the abandonment and protest (Docherty 87). In other words, it is an expression of a new form of literature and art and an investigation of individual consciousness that joined discord of existing Bohemias in order to develop a distinct style of literature, art, and living based on anarchic independence and communal life.

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Who is the Beat Generation?

The generation liberated poetic works from the academic preciosity and passed it back to the streets for every person to access it. They read the poets to the supplement of the liberal jazz in such Beat monopolies such as Coexistence Bagel Shop in San Francisco. Often, the verse turned chaotic and abundantly sprinkled with atrocities but was at times powerful and moving to the fanatics. Ginsberg plus other significant figures in the movement like the writer Jack Kerouac promoted a kind of free and amorphous poetic composition in which he would write down his personal insights and feelings without any plan or revision to portray the immediacy of experience. This approach later resulted in the production of the disruptive and illogical verbosity on the part of their impersonators. For the Beat generation, the shadowy basement that existed in the society was enough to harbor each bit because of the creative genius that existed such as the gilded halls of the academy (Maynard 54). Other than their anti-academic and anti-establishment pretentious, the movement was all well-educated and was from the middle-class backgrounds.

By 1960 when the fame and the zeal for the movement had begun to fade, it had made a number of significant writers including the likes of Ferlinghetti, Corso, and Gary Snyder which helped pave the way for acceptance of the revolutionary and previously neglected writers like the Black Mountain poets and William Burroughs. The beat generations focused approached literature and art in a more bold, forthright and sensitive manner than any other thing that had existed. Their underground music styles such as jazz became evocative for their writers while at the same time intimidating to the establishment (Theado 748). To many, the productions of the movement crossed the line into pornographic content and were merited restriction. Other people dismissed the beat generation literature and art as mere incitement, a way of acquiring attention but not a serious art.

The movement collected from numerous resources materials to produce their particular vision of literature and art. Various originators have claimed that the romantic poets were the main influences on their poetic works. Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Blake, for instance, are often cited for their influential input in the development of the Beat aesthetic. Intermixed with the Romantic inspirations were the surrealist and absurdist trends. Subsequently, the American Transcendental Movement had a significant impact on the approach of the Beat generation. They were a source of motivation for the argumentative politics that were witnessed at the Beats with Henry David Thoreau as the symbol of protest. In fact, it was the Beat generations that helped rehabilitate Thoreau and uplift Walden. Equally, the artistic work of the American Modernists was not liked by the Beat movement. The neo-classical formalism Eliot was often rejected and removed from real life and experience, but he accepted the condition as an academician. The Beat generation was more elitist with affectations of dignity.

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was also part of the Beat generation and opened City Lights Bookstore that became the hub of the movement. During the same time, Ferlinghetti also came in and brought both the infamous and the established poets to the majority. In his poetic work, Ferlinghetti used a jazz-inspired rhythm and some sense of improvisational spirit. The lines of his poetic works seemed almost thrown, even though beneath the disorganization were planned and had a deliberate effect. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was famous for his use of humor and darkness in the art and literature, which emerged to be a perfect reflection of the nature of the American culture and the world during the mid-century. He portrayed the high degree of depravity and prudery that existed in the American culture and the destructive potential of capitalism. His initial approach was to laugh at the irrationality of it all before putting down his words (Knight 65). Ferlinghettis poetry in this case, therefore, is less rooted to the Beat movement aesthetic from which it leaped. The humor incorporated with some sense of humanity make his artistic work timeless and less weighed down by the historical moment.

Allen Ginsbergs Howl which was published in 1965 had a significant effect on the history of Beat Movement literature. This was a long-form poem which was read aloud, almost sang, and the result was the return of oral tradition that had been ignored for long. The content of this literature raised concern and sparked an atrocity that challenged the meaning of porn in America. In the end, Ginsberg won and the decision of the jury more or less ensured that poetic work and fiction would later be immune to the nature of censorship that still influences other genres of art in the contemporary society. With Howl, Ginsberg takes the poem lovers on magical tour out of the American territory. There exist those addicted to drugs, prostitutes, and swindlers in the society that the poetic work of Ginsberg ministered to. There exist instinctual rage that emerged in the art against the system that needs conformity and selling-out. Vulgar language, criminality, use of slang and the use of substances is common in the work which was part of the establishment of the movement in 1950. However, according to Ginsberg, the poem follows the path of inspiration, citing Walt Whitman as one great influencer. Through the work, echoes of Whitmans primitivism are very evident.

The hysterical enthusiasm of the 1950s led to the chaos of the 1960s and Ginsberg moderated his poetic works in an excellent way to control the chaos. His poetic work often expressed an inner turmoil and a sincere pursuit of meaning. As his life became meaningful to him, the energies that led to the production of Howl reduced and faded away. Nobody has ever said that Ginsberg got lost, but rather many have attested that his work gained maturity and less explosive. After the 1960s, he took mush of his time as a visiting scholar in various universities spreading positive messages related to their literature and art as the Beat generation. As a result of this, the establishment that earlier neglected him welcomed him into the fold with open arms- a satirical incident that raised some questions in relation to his integrity. Ginsbergs happiness as a member of the Beat generation was to instruct and mentor others (Sollors 650). On numerous occasions, he left drug experimentation and instead focused on other people for fulfillment instilling the upcoming generation with the passion and belief of human spirit. The movement had a significant impact on the literature and art in the American society. With Ginsbergs Howl, the idea of what was required in literature was extended immensely. Suppression which was used in modulating public discourse in the realm of literature and art came to an end. Perhaps more essential was the beat generation in propelling discussions of literature into the mainstream through their artistic works.

No Beat generation member got more attention and exaltation as Jack Kerouac. Additionally, there is none among them whose life was filled with conflict, confusion and continuous depression. He was equally addicted to alcoholism and was never happy with the position he had as the de facto spokesman of the Beat generation. It can be said that he was shy and had difficulty in rejecting whatever he faced during his early career. In relation to his success at the Beat literature, he organized a philosophical journey narrative which involved a stream of consciousness, drug vision and profound observation to a generation statement that echoes to the present day. The literature made him immediately famous. This surprised the Beat generation cohorts who were taken aback by the degree of creativity and passion which came from Kerouac (Kerouac 74). Subsequent to the novel which made him famous in a short time, he wrote a great deal concerning the craft of fiction and his vision for the craft. Jack Kerouac's partially brilliant, partially incomprehensible thoughts on the work of making literature a success have provided windows to the Beat consciousness. Inside, one often finds some great potential which is hampered by dismay and voracious idealism which goes against the cruel reality of the American consumer culture. In other words, Jack Kerouac was the most brittle member of the Beat generation. He later surrendered to the pressure resulting from fame attention.

William Burroughs greatest contribution to literature was what was termed the cut-up an approach which was derived more from collage and cubism that traditional narrative. The unconcealed disregard for the narrative successfully emulated his mental state as he struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse. Naked lunch is one of his literary works that is often hard and sometimes terrifying to engage with even though readers continued to be drawn by the style, language application, and the innovation. His involvement with Gysin led to a long-term friendship that inspired his sentimental novel and extended his commitment to visual art. Through Gysin is when the cut up approach was discovered that applied a variation on classic Cubist and Dada tool for creativity based on casual mixing and matching of part of texts from newspapers (Morgan 24). The approach has been widely accredited as a motivation for a disjointed and illegal narrative of "Naked Lunch."

The beat brothers started to formulate a kind of literary brotherhood led by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. These members were idolized by the sidelined people across America. They created a notion of shared masculinity that filtered into the beat literature, and this is particularly evident in Kerouac's novel titled on the road that documents the hero, Sal Paradise's fascination with hid friend Dean Moriarty. In relation to Kerouac's affection for a fellow writer Neal Cassady, the literature reflects the male-dominated culture during that time. The novel's female characters are sidelined and are seen as accessories to dean's life. Almost none of the main charac...

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