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Studying the Beat Generation

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American writers of the post-war period such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs are frequently grouped under the slippery label of ‘The Beat Generation’. The Beats controversially broke most of the rules of ‘accepted’ literature and social mores via a series of influential texts including Howl (1956), On the Road (1957) and Naked Lunch (1959). Combining jazz, drugs, paranoia, textual experimentation and technology, their work holds many rewards for the reader but poses significant and unexpected challenges for the critic. This talk aims to introduce this fascinating literary scene and to discuss some of the obstacles involved in research into their work and methodologies.

Bio: James Riley is a PhD candidate at Corpus Christi College. His research focuses on the influence of recording technology upon Beat and counter-cultural literature. He is also working on an archive project with the film-maker and author Peter Whitehead.

This talk is part of the Pembroke Papers, Pembroke College series.

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