The Beat Generation Resource Page
We’ve all probably heard the word “beatnik” used to describe someone a little odd or different than we are. Another way to describe a beatnik is to call the person a “hippie”. But the term beatnik originated in the 1950’s as a result of the Beat Generation.
The Beat Generation is used to describe the work of the American poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. The main theme of the Beat Generation was the encouragement of the writers to reject the capitalist values of mainstream USA The Beat Generation came to the forefront of American life for primarily young people in the 1950’s.
The Beat Generation had many major works, but probably the most famous were Allen Ginsberg's Howl published in 1956, William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch which was published in 1959 and Jack Kerouac's On the Road which in1957 was groundbreaking literature with the young people of the country. Both Howl and Naked Lunch were the focus of landmark obscenity trials that eventually helped to liberalize what could be published in the United States. On the Road transformed Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady into a youth-culture hero. The members of the Beat Generation quickly developed a standing as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous originality.
The original "Beat Generation" writers would meet in originally in New York. Later, the central figures of the Beat Generation (with the exception of Burroughs) ended up together in San Francisco in the mid-1950s where they met and became friends with figures associated with the San Francisco Renaissance. During the 1960s, the rapidly expanding Beat culture underwent a transformation: the Beat Generation paved the way to the Sixties Counterculture, which was accompanied by a shift in public terminology from "beatnik" to "hippie."