Kerouac and the Beat Generation

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”Jack Kerouac, On the Road

PART 1 Dear students, it’s the end of our  English class together and  (quoting Shakespeare) “the wheel has come full circle”. We ended up last year with the Romantic poets like Blake and Shelley so dear to the beatnik writers. We started our new year with O. Wilde.

As usual while I was preparing your next lesson I had a look at You Tube and found some incredible videos. I find it so amazing when I can “give VOICE, MUSIC & FACES” to all the concepts and books I had studied and read but never … seen alive if not in my imagination. Your approach to this topic and this last author of ours is going to be so different from mine. You can now hear Kerouac’s voice while he reads his own work ( so fundamental to appreciate the “beat” and flow!), you can  see him and the images of New York in the background, you can have it explained sitting at your desk and have a taste of Jazz music. I really hope you’ll appreciate all this and one day…while driving around the USA, you’ll … remember your “crazy” teacher of English 🙂

Dal programma Cult Book in italiano ( la pronuncia di Kerouac e’ errata. Corretta = Keruac) una breve introduzione in italiano.

The next videos an American introduction to the author and book. ““I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” TAKE NOTES to report in class


This is the link to the GOOGLE MAP of Kerouac’s On the Road

Jack Kerouac, interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr. from a documentary on the soul of the Beat Generation. Beat, (a)politics, (non)hippies, drunkenness and television.. “Everything is going to the beat — It’s the beat generation, it be-at, it’s the beat to keep, it’s the beat of the heart, it’s being beat and down in the world and like old-time lowdown and like in ancient civilizations the slave boatmen rowing galleys to a beat and servants spinning pottery to a beat…” Jack Kerouac – Desolation Angels

Kerouac reading the last page of “On the Road” with pictures of Jack and Neal.

I even came across a video of Johnny Depp reading Kerouac ( you never know what you’ll end up with while searching YouTube!!), a strange interpretation of his philosophy of  living for “kicks”. It certainly conveys that psychedelic atmosphere. The first line is Ginsbergs America, the rest is Depp reading Kerouacs Mexico City Blues Chorus 113″ (an excerpt from the film the United States of Poetry by Washington Square Films.)

Un articolo del Corriere della Sera come doveroso omaggio a Fernanda Pivano che ci ha lasciati il 18 agosto 2009 e grazie alla quale l’Italia ha conosciuto gli scrittori e la letteratura americana. Una grande donna, non so se ne parlerete mai in Italiano ma non può venire dimenticata! Famosa è la sua intervista a kerouac ubriaco.

I cannot help adding also some stunning photos of Big Sur. I drove from L.A. to San Francisco in 1988 and still haven’t forgotten those fantastic views. Should you go to California one day you cannot miss the City Light Bookstore in San Francisco

Trailer of the movie (2012) directed by Walter Salles featuring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Alice Braga, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Elisabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst, and Viggo Mortensen.

PART 3: I’m now adding two videos we’ll watch in class. The first is the poem AMERICA by Allen Ginsberg with the music of Tom Waits.

The next “Howl” is a poem written by Allen Ginsberg in 1955. The poem is considered to be one of the great works of the Beat Generation. “Howl” was originally written as a performance piece, but it was later published by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books. The poem was originally considered to be obscene, and Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged with its publication. On October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that the poem was not obscene.

TASK: After finishing our module on the Beat Generation leave your “last optional” comment of your High School English literature class 😉

Thanks a million! Cimy

8 thoughts on “Kerouac and the Beat Generation

  1. Honestly it took me some time to write this comment because thinking about the fact that this is the last one really made me reflect and go back in time. And I came to the conclusion that we’ve come a long way 🙂 The road has been tough and sometimes we have encountered obstacles along the way, but we’ve definitely grown and learnt a lot. I’m thankful I’ve been able to attend this course and all the different, innovative ways in which it has been carried out. I believe that when you are at the end of a journey and you’re able to take a step back and look at everything in perspective, you can really appreciate all the effort that has been put in the work and the consequently results in our cultural and linguistic knowledge!
    But speaking about our last module on the Beat Generation, I have to say that it is one of the movements that I enjoyed the most because I really felt their restlessness and their longing for freedom. In fact I think that this module suits perfectly the moment in which we are now: last month of our last year of high school, with an important exam approaching and our burning desire for being finally free and out to start a new chapter of our lives!
    So thank you prof for your passion (even during hard times), for all the things you’ve taught us and for really making a difference when it comes to teaching 🙂

    • Ambra, thank you so much for your heartfelt and beautiful comment, I’ll cherish for the years to come. Passion is sometimes very hard to keep alive and nourish but I somehow feel have done a good job in all these years 🙂
      I really hope you’ll keep in touch once you fly away and start the new chapter of your free life.

  2. Personally I enjoyed the literature course a lot throughout the years. Of course there were authors that I loved and others that didn’t really catch my interest, but overall I believe we learnt a lot and always in innovative ways. This course also gave me enough curiosity that I’m going to study Anglo-American literature at university as well, in order to learn everything about the writers that (unfortunately) we couldn’t cover, and meet again some old reminiscences 🙂 Thanks teacher for these unforgettable years!

    • My dear Margherita, you are one of those students I’ll remember with great pleasure and you’ll always be more than WELCOME for a chat, a cup of coffee or tea … anytime!
      Curiosity is the greatest tool and fuel to improve in life. Keep me updated with your AngloAmerican studies 🙂

  3. On the road exemplifies the feeling of the young people of the Fifties. They were always looking for new adventures and for something that could make them feel alive.
    Their restlessness and their desire of pleasure and freedom are central aspects of the protagonist’s travel, who is trying to escape his life and above all live it fully.
    These are also current themes, which make the readers easily able to identify with the characters of the book.
    In fact, our age is the one of the great changes and important decisions, which make us feel lost and confused a lot of times. I truly believe that this module made us reflect about our existence as young people compared to the ones from the past, and think about the future as well!

    • Dear Sara, thanks for your reply. Actually I think we all feel lost and confused sometimes, not only young women like you 😉 What’s important is not to lose your way while being … on the road!

  4. Personally I think we couldn’t end better our high school English literature class: dealing with an unconventional topic as the “Beat Generation”. I’m sure I will remember it better and longer than other literature themes because of its being unexpected and (I have to recognize it) vulgar.
    Honestly at the beginning I couldn’t understand how a gross writing like that could be studied at school and in different countries of the world in a period of time, which is the current one, in which especially schools promote every sort of organization to give awareness to young people of the countless risks of drugs and alcohol. I still find it unusual but at the same time fascinating maybe because of its being different from what we all expect. For this reason I think this movement was necessary to complete our literature experience and I’m thankful to you prof, for the time and the dedication you employed in order to make clearer such a curious movement.

    • My dear Paola, thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t define this topic as “unconventional” nor “curious” as it’s present in most texts of literature, it has influenced the arts (music-youth movement)of the following and present years and I’ve dealt with it at school for years. I honestly think that the rude/coarse (volgare) language you mention is somehow nothing compared with some profanity and F-words of contemporary trap music teenagers listen to. As regards the awareness campaigns against the use of drugs I’ve always been the first – as you know – to personally promote a “Say No to Drugs” attitude. Nevertheless it’s also generally acknowledged that drugs have always existed – see Coleridge to name just one – and it’s interesting to see and understand how society has evolved – or regressed 🙁 – in the centuries. Deep in my heart I hope you have understood that it’s not the use of drugs that make a writer a Good Writer, on the contrary it shows the abyss they’ve been through and how their addiction ruined their talent. We’ll talk about in class.

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