subject matter is really the operation of the mind."
is now known as the Beat Movement, but it originated with a few
writers in New York City in the 1950's. it was a literary movement
which emulated many of the ideals of the Bohemia of 19th Century
Paris. Here's how:
- The beat writers went
against the ideals of the mainstream culture, both in their lifestyles
- They were a tightly
knit group of friends, comprable to Henry
Murger and the Water Drinkers. It wasn't until later on that
they became known as a "movement."
- As with 19th Century
Bohemia, the dominant culture was initially ambivalent toward
the beats, but it later became "hip."
The image above
shows the bar of the Beat Hotel in 1960, where the central beat
figures resided when they visited Paris. Just like the bohemians
of the 19th century, the beats brought their art right into the
social arena with them. Like most
bohemian residences, the Beat Hotel was the cheapest, lowest-quality
place to reside, with "no carpets, hole-in-the-floor toilets,
last week's Figaro for toilet paper, [and] a smell of bad
feet in the corridors" (Campbell
view the 1960's as the era of radical change and revolution in America.
Women, blacks, students, homosexuals -- they all spoke out powerfully
in that decade. But the seeds of these movements were planted much
earlier, with the beats.
wrote in reaction to the
materialistic, conformist America they saw developing in the 1940's"
(Foster xii). In other words, they
wrote against the mainstream, using their art as both an escape
from their world and a suggested solution to what they believed
ailed it. Drug usage, sexual freedom, and a wandering lifestyle
all characterized the beats, and this is why the dominant culture
rejected them in the beginning. However, the beat writers also completely
changed the face of American poetry and prose, ushering in a new
kind of writing and way of seeing the world, so that later they
were seen as an important part of American literary history.