Critical Overview

(Literary Movements for Students)

Criticism of the Beat Movement was initially almost as divided as the Beats themselves were from mainstream American society. While there was little disagreement that the Beat Generation had indeed caused a stir with its literature, art, and music, supporters and detractors argued mostly about the true artistic value of the methods and the results. The prevalent negative critique claimed, simply, that their writings were not literature. Beat writers were attacked for their disregard for proper grammar and their often incoherent, rambling prose that seemed accessible only to its authors. Supporters, however, found the strange styles and shocking subjects refreshing and justified the creative techniques as valid reactions to a humdrum, conservative mainstream. Decades after their fading away—and after the beatniks and hippies of the 1960s, disco freaks of the 1970s, and “me” generation of the 1980s— a more objective criticism emerged.

Recent Beat Movement reviewers have largely put aside the debate over what was real writing talent and what was not in order to concentrate on why the movement began in the first place and what influence it had on its own generation and those that followed. In his 1992 publication of Understanding the Beats, author Edward Halsey Foster claims that “writing was for the Beats a means through which the self might be redeemed, or at the very least a place where its redemption might be recorded.” Foster went on...

(The entire section is 365 words.)