Read The Beats: A Very Short Introduction by David Sterritt Online


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writers of the Beat Generation revolutionized American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society. They and their followers took aim at the hypocrisy and taboos of their time--particularly those involving sex, race, and class--in such provocativIn the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writers of the Beat Generation revolutionized American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society. They and their followers took aim at the hypocrisy and taboos of their time--particularly those involving sex, race, and class--in such provocative works as Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" (1956), and William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch (1959).In this Very Short Introduction, David Sterritt offers a concise overview of the social, cultural, and aesthetic sensibilities of the Beats, bringing out the similarities that connected them and also the many differences that made them a loosely knit collective rather than an organized movement. Figures in the saga include Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, Carolyn Cassady, and Gary Snyder. As Sterritt ranges from Greenwich Village and San Francisco to Mexico, western Europe, and North Africa, he sheds much light on how the Beats approached literature, drugs, sexuality, art, music, and religion. Members of the Beat Generation hoped that their radical rejection of materialism, consumerism, and regimentation would inspire others to purify their lives and souls as well. Yet they urged the remaking of consciousness on a profoundly inward-looking basis, cultivating "the unspeakable visions of the individual," in Kerouac's phrase. The idea was to revolutionize society by revolutionizing thought, not the other way around. This book explains how the Beats used their antiauthoritarian visions and radical styles to challenge dominant values, fending off absorption into mainstream culture while preparing ground for the larger, more explosive social upheavals of the 1960s.More than half a century later, the Beats' impact can still be felt in literature, cinema, music, theater, and the visual arts. This compact introduction explains why.About the Series:Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable....

Title : The Beats: A Very Short Introduction
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780199796779
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 144 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Beats: A Very Short Introduction Reviews

  • Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
    2019-06-17 05:57

    Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we...will probably write poems, drink more, and do an insane amount of drugs, and eventually...die. O the life of a Beat.

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-05-30 12:50

    The Very Short Introductions series of Oxford University Press offers readers "stimulating ways into new subjects". This description applies to David Sterritt's recent "very short introduction" to the Beats (2013). Sterritt, film professor at Columbia University and the Maryland Institute of Art, has written extensively about film, including the role of the Beats in American film.In introducing his subject, Sterritt writes: "[i]n the late 1950s and early 1960s, a small group of writers challenged long-accepted tenents of American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society." These writers became known as the Beats and centered around the figures of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. Somewhat later, Sterritt ties the Beats in to the long tradition of literary Bohemians, defined as "a gypsy of society, one who either cuts himself off, or is by his habits cut off, from society for which he is otherwise fitted, especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally." This definition of "Bohemian" from the Oxford English Dictionary captures much about the Beats.Sterritt offers a broad portrayal of the Beats, juxtaposing them against the history and culture in which they arose. He finds the Beats rebelled in many ways against the society of the time. Sterritt ties the rebellion of the Beats to Eisenhower-era conservatism, but he overdoes it. The Beats did much of their work and established the characteristics of their movement in the late 1940's and pre-Eisenhower 1950's. The Beats rebelled against conformity and just getting along and sought new visions of themselves through literature, a more open attitude towards sexuality, drugs, and eastern religions. Although many of the Beats opposed the conservatism of the 1950s and became politically active, Kerouac, as Sterritt points out, did neither.The Beats themselves offered short insightful summations of their goals that Sterritt quotes and discusses. Thus, in his novel "Visions of Cody", Kerouac wrote: "Everything belongs to me because I am poor." Kerouac also described his writing as seeking "the unspeakable vision of the individual". The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti described the Beats as seeking "a new birth of wonder" in a jaded world". Sterritt writes with sympathy and admiration for the Beats, their goals, and their accomplishments. He criticizes their "dark side", including the excesses of drug use, their sexism and other prejudices, and their tendency to withdraw into themselves.In the following chapters of the book, Sterritt describes briefly the lives and works of leading Beat writers. Kerouac and Burroughs are the focus of the discussion of the Beat novel. The chapter of Beat poetry and other writings includes Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, John Clellon Holmes, Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady, LeRoi Jones, Diane Di Prima, Anne Waldman, and more. Concluding chapters describe the Beats in popular culture and their continuing impact.Sterritt describes well the religious, philosophical aspects of the Beats with the strong interest of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Snyder in Buddhism. He also describes well the introspective character of much of the movement as the Beats tended to work on themselves individually. Sterritt himself has more sympathy for a socially-conscious and activist approach.The book includes an excellent bibliography of works by and about the Beats which will be useful to new readers wanting to pursue the Beats further. Some of the many excellent quotations included in the text are not always adequately referenced to their source. Sterritt's "very short introduction" emphasizes the many literary contributions of the Beats and should encourage readers to do further exploration of this important American literary movement.Robin Friedman

  • Daniel Wright
    2019-06-04 04:33

    I had no idea what 'The Beats' referred to before I started this book. Literally not a clue. I had heard of Jack Kerouac, but had never heard his name connected to this term, and that was pretty much it. Unfortunately, the author of this book assumed a certain amount of prior knowledge, under the assumption (I assume) that everyone must have heard of them. I suppose this is an easy trap to fall into when you're an expert. The main result of this was that the book had no coherent narrative and left me with still only a vague and ill-defined idea of what 'The Beats' means. It gives some interesting insights into mid-twentieth-century America, but that's about it.Chapter 1: Origins and essencesChapter 2: Beats, beatniks, bohemians, and all that jazzChapter 3: The Beat novel: Kerouac and BurroughsChapter 4: Beat poetry and more: Ginsberg, Corso, and CompanyChapter 5: The Beats and popular cultureChapter 6: The Beat legacy

  • Sonic
    2019-06-13 11:48

    A superb very short introduction to the Beats!

  • Greg
    2019-06-21 11:58

    Does just what it sets out to do & is neither too judgmental nor too adoring.

  • Dan
    2019-05-30 08:33

    This exhilarating tiny-textbook details the Beat movement and its characters in a way that is concise without sacrificing vividness. Descriptions of people, situations, and milestone literary events are used to reanimate this historical art movement (which if you ask me, still pulses). Any inhibitions I had about reading a 'Very Short Introduction' book are now smashed. Praise be to David Sterritt for telling colorful stories through facts.

  • Travis Zuber
    2019-06-17 06:38

    Interesting summary but fails in the finale to discuss true Beat legacy