Monday, September 28, 2009

The Beats Meet Jonathan Swift

Here's a page with audio for "Howl" by Ginsberg.

1. Who were the Beats? How are they like (and unlike) the "Augustan" poets of the 17th century?
  • post-WW2: the Beats were dissenters in a time of general good spirits and optimism
  • the 17th C poets were also writing in a time (the Restoration) of general celebrtion; they were the dissenters
  • the Beats celebrate immediacy and the moment; their work was inspired by the Zen Buddhist idea of "presentness" or mindfulness; the NY Beats (Kerouac, Ginsberg) were students at Columbia University; their poems are generally meant to be experienced in the moment - read out loud
  • the 17th C satirists are not so spontaneous, but wrote witty and complex poems; they concealed their rebellion sometimes, where - the Beats put it on the surface
  • the Beats were a small group of friends - the east coast wings and west coast wings
  • the Augustan poets were also a small group who knew each other and initially wrote for each other: Dryden, Pope, Rochester
  • both groups of poets use unacceptable language as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction with everybody else's complacent happiness
  • both groups use humor: Ginsberg is not that funny, but Lawrence Ferlinghetti is and Gregory Corso is
  • both insist on the realities of the physical body, using this as an answer to high ideals or religion
  • both seem to value experience over ideas - although both groups have a philosophical edge
  • a big difference: the 17th C poets are rationalists; the Beats are really neo-Romantics - meaning, they don't care much for rationality: they're interested in madness, chidlike experience, nature etc.

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