AMS 370 • 18-The Beats and American Culture, 1945-1990-W
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
Historians and literary critics have long debated the significanceboth literary and culturalof such "Beat Generation" writers as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. This seminar will engage that debate by examining some "classics" of Beat writing and tracing their impact on popular art and culture from the 1960s through the 1980s. First we will assess several key Beat texts both as literary works and as documents of social and cultural history from the 1940s through the early 1960s. Then, using an interdisciplinary approach, we will ask whether a Beat aesthetic spread from literature to other areas of cultural production. Finally, we will examine survivals, influences, and appropriations of Beat or neo-Beat modes of expression in popular arts from the 1960s through the 1990s, including but not limited to literature, art, music, film, photography, and comics. This course has a significant writing component, including a final paper on a single Beat or neo-Beat figure or phenomenon. In a sense, the course is an exploration of alternative cultures during the last half of the twentieth century.
The instructor will present a brief historical overview of the period and offer a series of themes for discussion but for the most part will serve as a moderator of discussion. Students are encouraged to act as cultural observers and critics.
Because a successful seminar depends on lively, informed discussions, students are expected to complete assigned readings, to attend regularly, and to participate actively in class. Written work includes four 2-page essays (10% of final grade each), a final project of at least 10 pages (30%), and a take-home final exam (15%). Each student will be responsible for a short oral report and frequent class participation (15%). Evaluation will be based on originality and clarity of thought and expression, both written and oral.
This course requires considerable reading, probably about ten books and a packet of articles. If that worries you, then the course may not be for you. Students may also be asked to view several films and listen to music outside of class. Assigned texts will include works like the following: Jack Kerouac, On the Road Allen Ginsberg, Howl Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler William Burroughs, Naked Lunch Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters Hettie Jones, How I Became Hettie Jones Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Allen Ginsberg, The Fall of America Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Gary Snyder, Turtle Island Thomas Pynchon, Vineland Kathy Acker, Essential Acker Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. 1 Mac Montandon, ed., The Tom Waits Reader Rosalee Goldberg, Laurie Anderson Paul Auster, Three Films