In the November 16, 1952, edition of the New York Times Magazine, John Clellon Holmes popularized the term “beat generation” in his article “This Is the Beat Generation.” While researching the article, Holmes had asked his friend Jack Kerouac, who had previously published the novel The Town & the City (1950), to describe his social circle of writers, visual artists, and musicians that were gaining infamy in New York’s Greenwich Village. Kerouac famously responded, “this is a beat generation,” and the name has been attached to the group of writers — principally Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs — ever since. Often depicted as lawless, rebellious youth, Kerouac’s cohort was a collection of serious artists committed to developing new aesthetic practices in American fiction writing and poetry.
In our course, we will approach texts written by Beat authors from a generic perspective. First, we will read texts preceding the Beats that demonstrate dominant conventions in literary productions, and then we will consider Beat texts within their particular aesthetic and socio-historical contexts. In short, we will begin to ask how social and political events inflect aesthetic practice. As we consider how individual Beat writers respond to those conditions through their own literary productions, we will also begin to develop our capacity to transform thoughts and ideas into polished prose appropriate for various academic contexts.
As an introduction to college writing, this course will focus on writing as a process. For each major writing assignment, you will utilize a customized writing process that will include generative and organizational pre-writing, drafting (yes, you will, in fact, write more than one draft, despite Kerouac’s “first thought, best thought” maxim!), peer- and self-revision, proofreading, and preparing a final draft. By pairing the development of critical reading and writing skills, this course will prepare you for engaging with writing prompts in other courses and other rhetorical situations.