Beat Culture
Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact
by William T. Lawlor, Editor
May 2005, 392pp, 8 1/2x11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-85109-400-4
$94, £70, 79€, A135
eBook Available: 978-1-85109-405-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Poetry readings in Greenwich Village cafes. City Lights bookstore. Timothy Leary’s psychedelic community. Allen Ginsberg’s writings composed under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. How did a handful of struggling writers and poets on the fringe of American culture in the 1940s launch a movement that continues to influence society?

The coverage of this book ranges from Jack Kerouac's tales of freedom-seeking Bohemian youth to the frenetic paintings of Jackson Pollock, including 60 years of the Beat Generation and the artists of the Age of Spontaneity.

Beat Culture captures in a single volume six decades of cultural and countercultural expression in the arts and society. It goes beyond other works, which are often limited to Beat writers like William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, and Michael McClure, to cover a wide range of musicians, painters, dramatists, filmmakers, and dancers who found expression in the Bohemian movement known as the Beat Generation.

Top scholars from the United States, England, Holland, Italy, and China analyze a vast array of topics including sexism, misogny, alcoholism, and drug abuse within Beat circles; the arrest of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti on obscenity charges; Beat dress and speech; and the Beat “pad.” Through more than 250 entries, which travel from New York to New Orleans, from San Francisco to Mexico City, students, scholars, and those interested in popular culture will taste the era’s rampant freedom and experimentation, explore the impact of jazz on Beat writings, and discover how Beat behavior signaled events such as the sexual revolution, the peace movement, and environmental awareness.


  • Over 250 A–Z entries on the most important people, places, movements, themes, and scholarship, including entries on related cultural movements outside the United States, which set the Beats in an international context
  • A chronology highlighting artistic and historical events including the legendary poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and others at the 6 Gallery
  • Over 40 illustrations of Beat clothing, the Beat "pad," and the styles and tastes of the period
  • Images of the most photographed literary group in history and maps of their travels, such as Jack Kerouac and his legendary freight train journeys across the United States and Mexico
William T. Lawlor, PhD, is writing emphasis coordinator and professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, WI. His published works include The Beat Generation: A Bibliographical Teaching Guide.


"No one is missing in this comprehensive encyclopedia covering all major and peripheral figures of the Beat Generation as well as the culture and history of the era."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2005

"A comprehensive overview of the entire Beat experience . . . a handy reference for high school grades on up."—Library Bookwatch, August 1, 2005

"The Beat movement, now 60 years old, seems poised for a comeback with the release of this one-volume encyclopedia of all things Beat . . . Though the cultural significance of the 'Age of Spontaneity' has long been debated by scholars . . . there has been no comprehensive collection describing the artists, events, and historical forces of this culture in an easy-to-use reference format until now."—Library Journal, November 1, 2005

"Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact covers the whole Beat spectrum, enlightening the reader not only about literature but also about the painting of Jackson Pollock, the dance of Merce Cunningham, the 'Beatness' of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, the educational philosophy of Black Mountain College, and the Beatstlye of dress. A useful purchase for public and academic libraries."—Booklist, October 1, 2005
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