Original Research

'Confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought': a reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poetry

H. Kruger
Literator | Vol 28, No 1 | a149 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v28i1.149 | © 2007 H. Kruger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2007 | Published: 30 July 2007

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H. Kruger, School of Languages, Vaal Triangle Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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Abstract

Much critical writing about the Beat Movement has focused on the strong interrelationship between the literary and social discourses within and around the movement. However, the study of Beat literature also necessitates an awareness of its position within the literary discourse of the twentieth century. Beat writing may be seen as standing in the unstable, shifting territory between two equally unstable, shifting literary movements: modernism and postmodernism. Beat poetry pits itself against high modernism and the New Critical tradition, draws upon some aspects of early avant-garde modernism, and simultaneously remoulds these aspects into what may be regarded as the beginnings of postmodernism in the USA. This article presents a reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poetry against this literary-historical background. A brief general overview of some of the key characteristics of Beat poetry is given, followed by a discussion of a number of Beat poems, organised around some salient features of Ginsberg’s Beat poetry that may be linked to Beat poetry’s position in the transition from modernism to postmodernism.

Keywords

Beat Poetry; Allen Ginsberg; Modernism; Postmodernism

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