The Beat Generation faded from view as quickly as it appeared. Quickly stepping into the void were the beatniks. Despite the similar sounding names, the beatniks had very little in common with the Beats. Instead of a movement and an ideology, the beatniks represented little more than a fashion. Specifically, the beatnik was the laid-back, poetry reading goateed man, usually dressed in black. It is possible that this fashion was the result of society’s consumption and regurgitation of the Beat Generation aesthetic. If that’s the case, then the Beat writers were consumed and commodified by the very culture they sought to undermine. The hippie movement of the 1960s also owes a great debt to the Beats, though probably the Beats would not be quick to own that claim. The counterculture hippies generally lacked the intellectual backing that the Beats earned in the 1940s. In order to rebel and change a system, one must have some knowledge of the inner workings of that system. The Beat Generation was more educated and sophisticated than they seemed at first glance. Their artistic rebellion was calculated, and informed with an understanding of what came before them.
AG: Now how dare we assume that it’s meant for speaking aloud anyway? (aside from all the evidence that I’ve been producing in the last four months, three months). Well, what we have is ( John) Milton’s own book on that. And so, he’s got for Paradise Lost (not in your book but in a complete Paradise Lost), there’s a thing, a little preface he gives to Paradise Lost called “The Verse” – (and he’s telling about the verse-forms). So this was his particular scheme. Now he did Greek and Latin and he knew it real well and he wrote … Read More
Location begins to become an important theme in "Howl." The poem now starts to move through different locales all over the United States. This movement of place is characteristic of Beat literature. The post World War II generation that the Beat's were a part of was the first American generation that had the ability to travel widely with relative ease. Automobiles had become easily available to middle and lower class families. Systems of state and national highways connected distant locales and, later, the interstate system which began being built in the 1950's, would connect the entire country with high speed roads. This ability to travel to different places, to see and experience different parts of the country, and to observe a kind of national life was a central theme to Beat literature. Though "Howl" is not as interested in describing America, its people, or its places, the poem is demonstrative of the Beat impulse to move and to travel.