The Physical, Sexual and Symbolic Status of the Body in the Beat Generation Counterculture: A Comparative Analysis of Allen Ginsberg and Elise Cowen
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This thesis is written against the backdrop of the contribution Allen Ginsberg and Elise Cowen’s work added to the counterculture movement of poetry within the Beat Generation. To this day, Ginsberg’s work is widely discussed, yet over the decades, the remnants of Cowen’s surviving poetry are scarcely read, a brief note in the margins of the canonicity of Beat poetry. The works discussed in this thesis, selected from Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems and Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments are starkly different in the circumstance of their creation and reception. However, the notion of sexuality, nostalgia, and scathing regard for society are prominent in each. The main focus of this thesis is the poets’ relationship with the concept of the physical, sexual and symbolic body within their work as a reflection of their own lives and experiences. This thesis explores both the thematic manifestations of the Beat counterculture in their poetry as well as the formal innovations. By utilising relevant secondary and theoretical sources, this thesis will closely analyse the selected poetry with a strong awareness of the limitations and repression of the body faced in the 1950s and 1960s. By situating the name and status of Elise Cowen in an equal position to Allen Ginsberg, the gendered reception of the Beat Generation will be unravelled in order to explore the previously constricted element of their respective works.