Literary Representations of Countercultures Analysis

Influences, Roots, and Borrowings

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Jay Stevens writes in Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987): “in many respects the hippies were second-generation Beats.” Although the counterculture generation was more colorful, more optimistic, and more political, it shared with the Beats a distaste for authority and conformity. Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, major Beat writers, became leading counterculture figures.

The counterculture also brought popularity to kindred spirits from the past. Ginsberg drew attention to English Romantic poets William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Even more popular was Hermann Hesse, a German novelist and poet whose antiwar sentiments, Eastern mysticism, and psychological probings appealed to the counterculture.

The fantasy books of J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, 1937, and The Lord of the Rings, 1954-1955) were favorites in the counterculture; in general, fantasy and science fiction appealed to the counterculture’s exuberant imagination. The counterculture was influenced by the Beats, the literature the Beats advocated, and by such writers as Tolkien; in turn, the counterculture influenced such fanciful works as The Butterfly Kid (1967) by Chester Anderson, and Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus Trilogy (1974).