Or Beat movement ; US social and literary movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. Members of the Beat Generation, called beatniks, responded to the conformist materialism of the period by adopting lifestyles derived from Henry David Thoreau’s social disobedience and Walt Whitman’s poetry of the open road. The most influential writers were Jack Kerouac (who is credited with coining the term), Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs.
Other cultural reference points were contemporary jazz, Buddhist philosophy, and the use of psychotropic drugs to heighten experience and affirm their antiauthoritarian stance. The movement had no shared artistic credo beyond breaking the current literary orthodoxy, and its definition was largely historical. Most representative and influential were Kerouac’s novel On the Road and Ginsberg’s poem Howl, which used less conventionally structured forms alternately to celebrate the “beatific” spirit of Beat and to indict the repressiveness of modern society. Other prominent literary figures were poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet Gregory Corso, and novelist John Clellon Holmes.
Beat literature has a free, unstructured style; the most important example is Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl’ 1956. Jazz music, Zen, and hallucinogenic visions had a major influence on the attitudes and vocabulary of the Beats, who indicted the “madness” of modern society.“
A US generation of the 1950s; rejected possessions or regular work or traditional dress; for communal living and psychedelic drugs and anarchism.