• Beating Rhetoric: Rhetorical Theory in the Beat Generation

    Stephen Llano (see profile)
    American Literature, Poetics and Poetry
    American literature, Poetics, Rhetoric
    Item Type:
    University of Pittsburgh
    Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Beat Generation, diane diprima, jack kerouac, npm17
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    The beat generation has been examined as a social movement, literary period, and political statement from many different scholarly perspectives. Through the method of rhetorical criticism I tease out an implicit theory of rhetoric from the writings of the principal beat generation founders—namely Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Offering a rhetorical read of their major work along with analysis of their letters and journals I offer a theory of rhetoric from both thinkers. In the early chapters I discuss the history of poetic discourses and rhetoric to determine the connection between literary texts and rhetorical theory. I establish the rhetorical, cultural, and social environment of the post-war United States and its interpretation and assessment by both Kerouac and Ginsberg. I then establish linkages between Kerouac and the rhetorical sense of kairos, establishing his contribution to the beat theory by analyzing On the Road. Kerouac’s contribution to beat rhetoric is developed through examination of the timely and appropriate. Next I turn attention to Allen Ginsberg and his poem “Howl” to demonstrate his implicit theory that the limits of the human body are a rhetorical commonplace. Ginsberg’s contribution is established as finding great power of rhetorical invention in the limits of the human being’s embodied condition. In the final two sections, I show applications of this rhetorical theory through examining Diane Di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik and Amiri Baraka’s “Somebody Blew Up America” for elements of applied beat rhetorical theory, concluding that elements of the beat rhetoric are present in both.
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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