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Title: Irrational doorways : religion and spirituality in the work of the Beat Generation
Author: Reynolds, Loni Sophia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 6636
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2011
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My thesis explores the role of religion and spirituality in the work of the Beat Generation, a mid-twentieth century American literary movement. I focus on four major Beat authors: William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. Through a close reading of their work, I identify the major religious and spiritual attitudes that shape their texts. All four authors’ religious and spiritual beliefs form a challenge to the Modern Western worldview of rationality, embracing systems of belief which allow for experiences that cannot be empirically explained. They also assert the primacy of the individual—a major American value—in a society which the authors believed to encroach upon individual agency. Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Corso are also strongly influenced by established religious traditions: an aspect of their work that is currently overlooked in Beat criticism. Burroughs’ belief in a magical universe shapes his work. Ginsberg is heavily influenced by the Jewish exegetical tradition. Kerouac and Corso’s work contains Catholic themes. My study rectifies some tendencies in current criticism which I find problematic: a dismissal of the Beats as a countercultural phenomenon rather than a literary movement, a tendency to frame Beat religion and spirituality in vague language, and a tendency to focus solely on Buddhism within the movement. My study illustrates that the Beat authors’ work contains serious religious and spiritual content, that they take part in American religious and literary traditions, and that the authors engage with major social issues of the post-war period.
Supervisor: McCarron, Kevin ; Knight, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Beat generation ; William Burroughs ; Allen Ginsberg ; Jack Kerouac ; Gregory Corso ; religion ; sprituality