Countercultures: From Beat to Punk

Stevenson, Guy. 2025. Countercultures: From Beat to Punk. In: Oliver Harris; Davis Schneiderman and Alex Wermer-Colan, eds. William S. Burroughs in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Of the three famous Beat writers, William Burroughs was the only one who could have held serious interest to the Punks of the 1970s. Burroughs was anti-spiritual voice within a spiritual school; a satirist who used obscenity as he used heroin – to drill down into rather than up and out of human cruelty. To musicians like Lou Reed, David Bowie and Patti Smith, seeking new countercultural positions at the come down end of the hippie trip, he was an example of how to challenge the establishment while refusing the con of pop cultural political idealism. To the generation who came after these three path-breakers, younger and necessarily more dramatic in their rejection of “peace and love”, “flower power” and all the slogans and values Burroughs’ friend Ginsberg had coined in the counterculture, this be-hatted older gentleman in glasses and a three-piece turned out to be a credible tonic to the fogginess and hypocrisy the punks diagnosed in “corporate rock and roll”. This article explores Burroughs' extraordinary influence on punk music as a means of understanding the history of 20th century popular countercultures and shedding light on the state of 'countercultural' expression today.

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English and Comparative Literature


6 June 2024Submitted

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12 Jun 2024 13:58

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13 Jun 2024 21:33


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