term applied to certain American artists and writers who were popular during the 1950s. Essentially anarchic, members of the beat generation rejected traditional social and artistic forms. The beats sought immediate expression in multiple, intense experiences and beatific illumination like that of some Eastern religions (e.g., Zen Buddhism
). In literature they adopted rhythms of simple American speech and of bop and progressive jazz. Among those associated with the movement were the novelists Jack Kerouac
and Chandler Brossard, numerous poets (e.g., Kenneth Rexroth
, Allen Ginsberg
, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, and Gregory Corso), and others, many of whom worked in and around San Francisco. Perhaps the only true nihilist of the group was William S. Burroughs
. During the 1960s
ideas and attitudes were absorbed by other cultural movements, and those who practiced something akin to the
lifestyle were called
See A. Ginsburg, The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats (2017, compiled and ed. by B. Morgan); B. Cook, The Beat Generation (1971, repr. 1982), J. Tytell, Naked Angels (1976, repr. 1991), E. H. Foster, Understanding the Beats (1992), D. Sterritt, Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the 50s, and Film (1998), and J. Campbell, This Is the Beat Generation (2001); documentary, The Source (1999).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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