Organization: University College Roosevelt, Utrecht University, Netherlands
The Beat Generation promoted transnational literatures of resistance, and green readings of their work remains lacking. The Beat Generation was a transnational group of literary bohemians, and the relevance of their work might seem limited to the immediate postwar period. The problem of climate change has long been a source of inspiration for authors, and existing scholarship acknowledges this fact. Nonetheless, important questions remain. Can the environmental humanities contribute to current debates surrounding the Beat Generation? Can scholarly activities help resolve the many aesthetic and moral questions the Beat Generation confronts us with? Grace and Skerl argue as recently as 2018 that there is still a need for wider academic recognition of the Beat project, and recent trends in the environmental humanities can bring new conceptual and theoretical understanding to the Beat project. While the environmental humanities have made a broad intervention into literature over the past decades, what remains surprising is the lack of engagement with the profound philosophical and literary movement of the Beats. Connecting ecology to the Beats should not be that surprising. In his pioneering 1995 study, Steven Watson noted key aspects of the Beat Generation that resonate today, including the "spread of ecological consciousness," a wider "opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization," "[r]espect for land and indigenous peoples, and "[l]ess rich conspicuous consumption" (304). History suggests that Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure are the Beat writers most clearly interested in finding some kind of "reconnection with the natural world" (Phillips). Interesting too is that William Burroughs at times also expressed a deep "yearning for a return to a more pastoral—and even, at times, more primitive—existence." Gregory Stephenson further maintains that the influence of the Beat Generation may be discerned in nearly every aspect of the counterculture, including the denunciation of material concerns and careerism, increasing pacifism, and even a green anarchist philosophy that echoes Thoreau. Thus, it would seem that green readings on writers affiliated with the Beat Generation can benefit from reconsideration. Gary Snyder holds a prominent position in Beat lore and is widely acknowledged for his green poetic vision, but more research "might challenge stereotypical views of the Beats as hedonists who also happened to write" (Weidner). This Special Issue welcomes green readings on the Beats defined in a very broad sense, and includes not just the core members, but also women, the post-Beats, and contemporary writers, artists, and musicians that are heavily influenced by the Beat project. As such, this Special Issue seeks to trace the ecological arc of the Beats from the earliest manifestations to the present day.
Dr. Chad Weidner