Book Cover

Hip Sublime

Beat Writers and the Classical Tradition

Edited by Sheila Murnaghan and Ralph M. Rosen

6 x 9, 304 pp.
Pub Date: April, 2018

Subjects: Classics
American Literary Studies
Literary Theory

Series: Classical Memories/Modern Identities

Order Hardcover $79.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1355-1
Order Paperback $34.95   ISBN 978-0-8142-5469-1
Order PDF ebook$19.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-7612-9

Hip Sublime will begin a number of new conversations that can only be healthy for both classicists and twentieth-century specialists. . . . This book throws a bridge across one divide that, as the volume itself makes abundantly clear, should have been spanned long ago.” —Dennis Trout, University of Missouri

“Well-written, well-organized, well-researched, and, most importantly, truly informative, wide-ranging, and groundbreaking in its revisionary understanding of Beat-oriented writings.” —Daniel Morris, Purdue University

Despite their self-presentation as iconoclasts, the writers of the Beat Generation were deeply engaged with the classical tradition. Many of them were university-trained and highly conscious of their literary forebears, and they frequently incorporated their knowledge of Greco-Roman literature into their own subversive, experimental practice. Seeking to transcend the superficiality, commercialism, and precariousness of life in post–World War II America, the Beat writers found in their classical models both a venerable literary heritage and a discourse of sublimity through which to articulate their desire for purity.

In this volume, a diverse group of contributors explore for the first time the fascinating tensions and paradoxes that arose from interactions between these avant-garde writers and a literary tradition often seen as conservative and culturally hegemonic. With essays that cover the canonical Beat authors—such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs—along with less well-known figures—including Kenneth Rexroth, Ed Sanders, and Diane di Prima—Hip Sublime: Beat Writers and the Classical Tradition brings long overdue attention to the Beat movement’s formative appropriation of the Greek and Latin classics.

Sheila Murnaghan is the Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey.

Ralph M. Rosen is the Vartan Gregorian Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Making Mockery: The Poetics of Ancient Satire.



Stephen Dickey, Sheila Murnaghan, and Ralph M. Rosen

Chapter 1         Beats Visiting Hell: Katabasis in Beat Literature
Stephen Dickey

Chapter 2         “Thalatta, Thalatta!”: Xenophon, Joyce, and Kerouac
Christopher Gair

Chapter 3         “The Final Fix” and “The Transcendent Kingdom”: The Quest in the Early Work of William S. Burroughs
Loni Reynolds

Chapter 4         The Invention of Sincerity: Allen Ginsberg and the Philology of the Margins
Matthew Pfaff

Chapter 5         Radical Brothers-in-Arms: Gaius and Hank at the Racetrack
Marguerite Johnson

Chapter 6         Riffing on Catullus: Robert Creeley’s Poetics of Adultery
Nick Selby

Chapter 7         Sappho Comes to the Lower East Side: Ed Sanders, the Sixties Avant-Garde, and Fictions of Sappho
Jennie Skerl

Chapter 8         Robert Duncan and Pindar’s Dance
Victoria Moul

Chapter 9         Kenneth Rexroth: Greek Anthologist
Gideon Nisbet

Chapter 10       Philip Whalen and the Classics: “A Walking Grove of Trees”
Jane Falk

Chapter 11       Troubling Classical and Buddhist Traditions in Diane di Prima’s Loba
Nancy M. Grace and Tony Trigilio

Chapter 12       Towards a Post-Beat Poetics: Charles Olson’s Localism and the Second Sophistic
            Richard Fletcher

Afterword       “Standing at a Juncture of Planes”
Nancy Grace and Jennie Skerl

List of Contributors


Related Titles:

Book Cover

Ancient Sex

New Essays

Edited by Ruby Blondell and Kirk Ormand

Book Cover

Odyssean Identities in Modern Culture

Edited by Hunter Gardner and Sheila Murnaghan