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Women Writers of the Beat Era

Autobiography and Intertextuality
Mary Paniccia Carden

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941219 · $75.00 · Apr 2018
BUY Ebook · 248 pp. · ISBN 9780813941233 · $75.00 · Apr 2018
BUY Paper · 248 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941226 · $29.50 · Apr 2018

The Beat Generation was a group of writers who rejected cultural standards, experimented with drugs, and celebrated sexual liberation. Starting in the 1950s with works such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, the Beat Generation defined an experimental zeitgeist that endures to today. Yet left out of this picture are the Beat women, who produced a large body of writing from the 1950s through the 1970s and beyond.

In Women Writers of the Beat Era, Mary Paniccia Carden gives voice to these female writers and demonstrates how their work redefines our understanding of "Beat." The first single-authored study on female writers of this generation, the book offers vital analysis of autobiographical works by Diane di Prima, ruth weiss, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, and others, introducing the reader to new voices that interact with and reconfigure the better-known narratives of the male Beat writers. In doing so, Carden demonstrates the significant role women played in this influential and dynamic literary movement.


This groundbreaking study meticulously and intelligently uncovers the various creative strategies women of the Beat Generation have utilized in creating identities through autobiographical literature that have liberated them from cultural "pre-scriptions" imposed on them not only by the dominant culture but also from within the counterculture they played such a big part in creating. Just as the writings of these Beat women are palimpsests, so is Carden’s work a palimpsest on top of the scholarship by the Beat scholars that came before her.

Kurt Hemmer is Chair of the Cultural Arts Committee andProfessor of English at Harper College

In Women Writers of the Beat Era: Autobiography and Intertexuality, Mary Carden gifts her readers with a finely researched and beautifully crafted discussion of the complexities faced daily by women writers associated with the Beat Generation. Carden’s exploration of the ways in which they melded life writing with elements of Beat and other discourses presents a compelling argument for the often ambiguous and ambivalent prose that characterizes Beat women’s iconoclastic contributions to American literary and political history.

Nancy Grace, College of Wooster, author of Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination

Once considered a minority literature by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and a handful of other male writers, friends all, Beat writing, as a genre, has evolved gradually into a more inclusive, though still largely male, cultural phenomenon.... Well researched, heavily footnoted, and closely argued, Women Writers of the Beat Era returns female writers—Diane di Prima, Bonnie Bremser, Hettie Jones, et al.—to their rightful place within the Beat canon and culture. Summing Up: Highly recommended.


Women Writers of the Beat Era is a valuable survey of its subject, and a useful addition to the library of works by and about women and their involvements with Beat men and the Beat literary movement.

Pennliess Press

Women Writers of the Beat Era is an attempt to place women at the center of their own stories. These women led fascinating and productive lives, and contributed to American literature, but so often they have been marginalized. "So many texts by Beat men portray women as interchangeable and easily replaceable," Carden observes. It is true. But now at least we have a book devoted to their lives and work.


Carden’s most significant accomplishment in Women Writers of the Beat Era is to make visible Di Prima’s life and work among the beats through Di Prima’s autobiographical writings and the life writing of the era’s most significant and most overlooked women poets—Bonnie Bremser, ruth weiss, Joanne Kyger, Joyce Johnson, and Hettie Jones.

The Journal of American History

Carden’s book is a welcome study that highlights once again the richness of the contribution of Beat women writers in order to expand the literary precepts and analysis of the Beat movement as a postwar American cultural experimental phenomenon, which until the 1990s stronglydefined itself with a hegemonic narrative of male heroism and masculineethos—what Carden terms "the dominant Beat Generation mythos."

Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

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