The poet Allen Ginsberg, novelist and short story writer William S. Burroughs, and novelist and poet Jack Kerouac are the most recognized faces of the Beat movement, a social and literary movement that originated in the artist communities of San Francisco and New York City in the 1940s and 1950s. The group looked to shift cultural values and espoused nonconformity, spontaneous creativity and spiritual enlightenment.Continue Reading
Collectively known as the Beat Generation, and especially prominent on the West Coast poetry scene, other writers in the group included Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ken Kesey, Amiri Baraka and Anne Waldman. In the 1960s, a so-called "second wave" emerged when the Beats picked up elements of the hippie or counter-cultural movement. With ties to both groups, poet Neal Cassady is said to have acted as the bridge between the two.
Kerouac is credited with moving the term "beat" out of the African-American community and into its more rhythmic associations. Though, it was Cassady's jazz-inspired rap that morphed into the "beatnik" style. The literary innovation of the movement is sometimes overshadowed by the sexuality of some of its members. Ginsberg's book "Howl" was famously tried in 1957 on charges of obscenity for its homosexual elements, and Kerouac's novels confront multiple sexualities.Learn more about Literature