Screening the Beats: Media Culture and Beat Sensibility showcases the social and aesthetic viewpoints of lynchpin Beat writers Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg, juxtaposing their artistry with 1950s cinema, bebop jazz, and Three Stooges farce. In clear prose, film critic David Sterritt captures the raw energy of the Beats and joins in their celebration of aesthetic freakishness. Tapping into the diversified spirit of the Beat Generation and its nuanced relationship with postwar American culture, he considers how the Beats variously fore-ground, challenge, and illuminate major issues in Hollywood and avant-garde film, critical and cultural theory, and aspects of music in the mass-media age. Sterritt engages the creative and spiritual facets of the Beats, emulating their desire to evoke ephemeral aspects of human existence. Dealing with high and low cultures, he highlights the complementary contributions made by these works. Screening the Beats grapples with the Beat conflict between spiritual purity and secular connectedness, which often materialized in beatific bebop spontaneity, Zen-like transcendentalism, and plain old hipster smarts that characterized the writings of Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg. Deftly threading literary, musical, and cinematic works with a colorful array of critical theories, this book illuminates the relationship between American culture and the imaginative forces of the Beat Generation.
A film critic of the "Christian Science Monitor "for more than thirty years, David Sterritt is a professor of theater and film at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. His books include "Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the 50s, and Film;""The Films of Alfred Hitchcock"; and "The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible.""