Howl paper-final-californiaculture

Howl paper-final-californiaculture - Sarah Barrett January...

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Sarah Barrett January 28, 2008 California Culture Prof. Feldman “Howl” to the Masses Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is a poem with great rhetorical force and rarely equaled cultural impact. Perhaps its most widely recognized impact was its ability to define a generational artistic movement—the Beat Generation. “Howl” was initially underground poetry that was outlawed for its obscenities and controversial thematic content. Opposition to the poem stemmed from its subversive quality and the strange power it exercises on its readership, an “exuberance and a young will to kick down the doors of older consciousness and established practice in favor of what they think is vital and new” (Eberhart). Ginsberg’s poem encapsulates the beatnik sentiment of being marginalized while simultaneously desiring a revolutionary overhaul of popular consciousness. The title expresses this sentiment of the poem—of an emergent anti-conformist counterculture wherein everything is permitted and censorship is eliminated. “Howl” assumes a radical poetic form to deliver a resonant cry to its readers, seeking to bind together marginalized groups and initiate them into a shared vision of spiritual liberation. The poem begins, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” (1). This line plays a crucial role in setting the tone for “Howl” in its entirety. By beginning with the possessive pronoun, “I,” Ginsberg does two things. He establishes that the content of the poem is an autobiographical narrative of his own experiences, and he causes the reader of the poem to internalize the lines as if they were their own, evoking the
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sentiment of the Beat Movement. The narrator of “Howl” feels omniscient, seeing the secrets of the human heart and soul, and so too is the reader. With each verse, the reader is ushered into the world of the hipster, beatnik culture that inspired the creation of “Howl” ; a culture full of individuals questing for a holy vision in the midst of the poverty and chaos of American life. Ginsberg wrote this poem as fragmented ideas and images juxtaposed, in an effort to capture the rapid, random movements of the mind through his use of style. To successfully implement this technique, he composed a free-flowing structure with equally long lines and rare use of ending punctuation. His use of repetition is also a tool that creates emphasis and helps to link together the separate images that constitute each line. In the first part of the poem, Ginsberg repeats the word “who”; in the second section he repeats the word “Moloch”, and in the third he begins each line of the poem with the phrase, “I’m with you in Rockland.” This repetition also conveys a sense of futility, of not being heard, and of needing to draw deliberate attention to his words; the release of so many powerful and disturbing images along with the use of repetition and long lines makes the poem cathartic in nature. As a result, the reader gets caught in the rhythm and flow of
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This note was uploaded on 04/14/2008 for the course ENGL 46755 taught by Professor Fredman during the Spring '08 term at Notre Dame.

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Howl paper-final-californiaculture - Sarah Barrett January...

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