U. S. History The Beatniks History of the Beatniks



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U.S. History The Beatniks

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History of the Beatniks

"Beatnik" was the term applied to certain American artists, musicians, and writers who were popular during the 1950s. Members of the beat generation rejected traditional social and artistic forms. They also criticized the consensus, consumerism, and normalcy associated with the 1950s. The beats sought expression in multiple, intense experiences and beatific (god-like, spiritual) illumination like that of some Eastern religions (i.e. Zen Buddhism). In literature they adopted rhythms of simple American speech and of bop and progressive jazz. Among those associated with the movement were the novelists Jack Kerouac and Chandler Brossard, and numerous poets, many of whom worked in and around San Francisco. During the 1960s "beat" ideas and attitudes were absorbed by other cultural movements, and those who practiced something akin to the "beat" lifestyle were called "hippies."


Characteristics of Beatnik art, literature, and music:

o Rejection of traditional art, music, and literature; use of new and bold forms/styles.

o Use of a simple or common vernacular; integration of new slang words, such as "cool,"

"jive," "Dadeo," and "cat."

o Critique of 1950s social values and conformity.

o Questioning the future; expression of fear of the atom bomb.


Examples_of_Beat_Slang'>Examples of Beat Slang

Baby (n.) - term of endearment

Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.) - to talk, converse, be loquacious.

Beef (v.) - to say, to state. Ex., "He beefed to me that, etc."

Bird (n.) - female

Bread (n.) - money

Bring down (v.)- to lower the mood of; Ex., "That brings me down."

Cat (n.) - musician in swing band.

Cool It (command) - calm down

Cut out (v.) - to leave, to depart. Ex., "It's time to cut out"

Dadeo (n.) - a male

Dig (v.) - comprehend, understand. Ex., "Do you dig this jive?"

Drag (n.) - a disappointment

Eye (n.)- the television

Flip (v.) - go nuts over

Frisking the whiskers (v.) - what the cats do when they are warming up for a swing session. Fuzz (n.) - police ยท

Gas (n.) - exciting event

Gimme some skin (command) -shake hands

In the groove (adj.) - perfect, cool

Jack (n.) - name for all male friends (see gate; pops).

Jive (n.) - Harlemese speech; offensive; no good

Kopasetic (adj.) - absolutely okay, the tops.

Mash me a fin (command.) - Give me $5.

Mellow (adj.) - all right, fine. Ex., "That's mellow, Jack."

Melted out (adj.) - broke.

Pad (n.) - bed; home

Skins (n.) - drums.

The Man (n.) - the law.

Threads (n.) - suit, dress or costume (see drape; dry-goods).

Unhep (adj.) - not wise to the jive; a square.

Yeah, man - an exclamation of agreement
Examples of beatnik literature:
Jack Kerouac, from Dharma Bums:
Now I was three miles into the industrial jungle of L.A. in mad sick sniffling smog night and had to sleep all that night by a wire fence in a ditch by the tracks being waked up all night by rackets of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe switchers bellyaching around, till fog and clear of midnight when I breathed better (thinking and praying in my sack) but then more fog and smog again and horrible damp white cloud of dawn and my bag too hot to sleep in and outside too raw to stand, nothing but horror all night long, except at dawn a little bird blessed me. The only thing to do was to get out of L.A. According to my friend's instructions I stood on my head, using the wire fence to prevent me from falling over. It made my cold feel a little better. Then I walked to the bus station (through tracks and side streets) and caught a cheap bus twenty-five miles to Riverside. Cops kept looking at me suspiciously with that big bag on my back.
Allen Ginsberg, from "America"
America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.

America two dollarsand twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.

I can't stand my own mind.

America when will we end the human war?

Go **** yourself with your atom bomb

I don't feel good don't bother me.

I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?

When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?

America why are your libraries full of tears?

America when will you send your eggs to India?

I'm sick of your insane demands.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

America after all it is you and I who are perfect, not the next world...


Creating Beatnik art, literature or music: (10 points)
Directions: Following the characteristics of Beatnik art, literature, and music, create an art project, poem, story, or song that questions/critiques either (1) the culture, politics, and society of the 1950s OR (2) the culture, politics, and society of today. Make sure to integrate some examples of Beatnik slang. You also need to write 3 to 5 sentences explaining how your creation follows the some of the characteristics of the Beatnik form and style.

Activity - The Beatniks - S2014.docx


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