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Tom 54 (2014)

Beat Generation a religia

  • Paweł Gibas
11 czerwca 2015


Beat Generation and religion

The author of the article describes a group of American writers known in the history of literature as the Beat Generation. At its centre we find the literary oeuvres of the three founders of the movement: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. They are complemented by works of authors like Gary Snyder.
The first part of the article is a brief description of the beatniks, pointing to the origins of the movement as well as its cultural and historical background, and referring to the first works describing the phenomenon — by John Clellon Holmes and Norman Mailer.
The main part of the article is an analysis of literary references to various religious concepts: Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism as well as scientology, Indian beliefs or pantheism. The author’s interpretation is based on the most important works of the Beat literature: Kerouac’s On the Road, Ginsberg’s Howl and Kaddish and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. The article is complemented by a reflection on the role of drugs, especially LSD, which, according to the Beat writers, had the power to trigger mystical states, and could deepen the subject’s perception.
The author tries to point out the importance of religion and questions of the sacred to the Beat writers, demonstrating that the sacred is at the centre of the writers’ worldview, and to highlight the diversity of references and unique combination of contradictory concepts testifying to a constant spiritual quest expressed by means of literature.