A Guide to the Beat Generation in Literature

Manuel Campos


The Beat Generation is a literary movement started by a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-World War II era. The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s.

Central elements of the Beat Generation culture are:

  1. Rejection of standard narrative values
  2. Spiritual quest
  3. Exploration of American and Eastern religions
  4. Rejection of materialism
  5. Explicit portrayals of the human condition
  6. Experimentation with psychedelic drugs: The original members of the Beat Generation used a number of different drugs.
  7. One of the key beliefs and practices of the Beat Generation was free love and sexual liberation, which strayed from the Christian ideals of American culture at the time. Some Beat writers were openly gay or bisexual, including two of the most prominent (Ginsberg and Burroughs)
  8. Liberation of the world from censorship.
  9. Respect for the land and indigenous peoples and creatures, as proclaimed by Kerouac in his slogan from On the Road: “The Earth is an Indian thing.”

Writers of the Beat Generation Movement

Jack Kerouac born Jean-Louis Kérouac (though he called himself Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac); March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Kerouac is recognized for his method of spontaneous prose. His work covers topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.

William Seward Burroughs II  was an American writer. Burroughs was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author whose influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature

Literary Periods and Movements

If you want to learn more about literary periods and movements, consider visiting some of these posts:

  1. A Guide to Renaissance Literature
  2. A Guide to Postmodernism in Literature
  3. A Guide to Modernism in Literature
  4. A Guide to the Beat Generation in Literature
  5. The Beginner’s Guide to Realism in Literature
  6. A Guide to Naturalism in Literature
  7. A Guide to the Bloomsbury Group in Literature
  8. A Guide to Existentialism in Literature
  9. A Guide to Transcendentalism in Literature
  10. A Guide to the Victorian Period Literature
  11. A Guide to Romanticism in Literature
  12. A Guide to The Enlightenment Literature
  13. A guide to Medieval Literature
Manuel Campos, Docente de Inglés

About manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of EnglishPost.org, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English

You might also Like...