Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in the 20th Century American Literature: The Beat Generation

ENGL 263.601
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

Howl and On the Road, the two major texts of the Beat Generation, have recently been made into films. The appearance of these two films comes as the culmination of decades of widespread interest in the Beats, a group of American writers who did their most significant work in the 1950s and became highly influential for American culture in the 1960s and beyond. Through reading the Beats, we will examine many aspects of post-War American culture. Topics include: deviant sexuality, drug use, politics, aesthetics, and censorship. Texts under consideration will include Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. In addition to reading these major texts, we will read excerpts from the obscenity trial against Ginsberg, view several films, and listen to the jazz musicians who most influenced the Beats.