Beat poetry and the twentieth century, Allen Ginsberg
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This dissertation investigates Allen Ginsberg's Beat poetry within the framework of twentieth-century literary developments, from modernism to postmodernism. It is argued that Beat writing is founded on a rejection of the detached, intellectual and formal nature of the high modernism which came to be institutionalised in the American literary practice of the 1950s. Beat poetry rejects this tradition in favour of an eclectic assemblage of ideas which may, either through direct influence or through parallel development, be linked to certain avant-garde modernist movements. All of these movements share assumptions which support and echo the personal and spiritual vision of Beat aesthetics, as well as its formal experimentation. This eclectic assemblage also involves the assimilation of the ideas of modernist movements often held to be in conflict, embodying opposing strains of modernism. This dynamic is illustrated by analysing the influence of two such opposing modernist influences on Ginsberg's Beat poetry, namely imagism and surrealism. Finally, it is argued that this double gesture of a rejection of the institutionalised form of high modernism and a simultaneous re-assessment of the avant-garde constitutes a crucial step in the development towards postmodernism. Together with the surfacing of postmodernist characteristics in Ginsberg's Beat poetry, this forms the basis for the conclusion that Ginsberg's Beat poetry may be regarded as playing a transitional and initiating role in the literary evolution from modernism to postmodernism.
- Humanities