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The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's Appropriations of Modern Literature, from Rimbaud to Michaux by Veronique (Lancaster University, UK) Lane

The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's Appropriations of Modern Literature, from Rimbaud to Michaux


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The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's Appropriations of Modern Literature, from Rimbaud to Michaux by Veronique (Lancaster University, UK) Lane

The Francophilia of the Beat circle in the New York of the mid-1940s is well known, as is the importance of the Beat Hotel in the Paris of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but how exactly did French literature and culture participate in the emergence of the Beat Generation? French modernism did much more than inspire its first major writers, it materially shaped their works, as this comparative study reveals through close textual analysis of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac's appropriations of French literature and culture. Sometimes acknowledged, sometimes not, their appropriations take multiple forms, ranging from allusions, invocations and citations to adaptations and translations, and they involve a vast array of works, including the poetic realist films of Carne and Cocteau, the existentialist philosophy of Sartre, and the poems and novels of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Proust, Gide, Apollinaire, St.-John Perse, Artaud, Celine, Genet and Michaux. While clarifying the extent of Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's engagements with French literature and culture, in-depth analysis of their textual appropriations emphasises differences in their views of literature, philosophy and politics, which help us understand the early Beat circle was divided from the start. The book's close-readings also transform our perception of Burroughs' cut-up practice, Kerouac's spontaneous prose, and Ginsberg's poetics of open secrecy.


Veronique Lane's The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation fills an important and often unacknowledged gap in the study of these seemingly echt-American rebels. The Beats
literary Frenchness is more than an artifact of their time

-it is a key to their literary values and a measure of the tradition of literary revolt that spread from 19th-century France across continents and centuries. Lane elucidates the connections with wit, grace, and style. * Luc Sante, Visiting Professor of Writing and the History of Photography, Bard College, USA, and author of The Other Paris (2015) * Lane has written a pearl of a book, illuminating a central aspect of Beat literature that's long been obscure. * Ann Charters, Professor of American Literature, University of Connecticut, USA * This timely and informative book establishes the importance of French writers for the Beat generation of writers so effortlessly and convincingly that one can only wonder why it has never been done before. Deploying an intimate grasp of the works of Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac based on detailed textual analysis, this ambitious study is sure to be a reference-point for many years to come. * Mairead Hanrahan, Professor and Chair of French, University College London, UK * Veronique Lane's informed close readings succeed in showing that French Modernity was much more than a mere influence for the major Beat authors. While clarifying their relations to the works of Rimbaud, of Cocteau, but also of Saint-John Perse and Michaux or the cinema of Carne, this study revives in unexpected ways the poetic project, embraced by both the American and French traditions it investigates, of changing our idea of mankind. A book that ought to be read on both sides of the Atlantic. * Dominique Rabate, Professor of 20th Century French Literature, Universite Paris Diderot - Paris VII, France *

About the Author

Veronique Lane is Teaching Associate in French Studies at Lancaster University, UK. She has taught French critical thought on the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris, France, and has been Assistant Professor of French at Wesleyan University, USA, as well as Postdoctoral Fellow in the Research Institute for the Humanities at Keele University, UK. She has a PhD on Artaud and Genet from the Universite Paris Diderot - Paris VII.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th October 2017


Veronique (Lancaster University, UK) Lane

More books by Veronique (Lancaster University, UK) Lane
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Bloomsbury Academic USA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


280 pages


Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
Literary studies: from c 1900 -



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