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Capturing the Beat Moment: Cultural Politics and the Poetics of Presence Paperback – November 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080933013X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809330133
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Mortenson’s revisionist study keeps a steady eye on the historical and cultural milieu of Beat writers, drawing on critical theory, feminism, and race/ethnicity studies to explore the movement’s larger impact on U.S. culture during the Cold War. This is a brilliant contribution to cultural poetics.”

—Michael Davidson, author of Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics


Mortensen's concise and insightful book is a major contribution to studies in Beat literature. Every chapter engages with an important topic, for example, sexuality, the role of photography, visionary experience, concepts of utopia in William Burroughs and Ken Kesey, and the mid-20th-century obsession with authenticity. The author's comments on the Beats and existentialism clarify a murky relationship. Mortensen (Koe Univ., Istanbul) makes judicious use of literary theorists (especially Deleuze and Guattari) without neglecting the cultural and historical contexts of the period. He manages to do justice to women writers especially in relation to the conceptions of the orgasm, providing a full critique of Wilhelm Reich's influence. He also does justice to African American writers and to neglected figures like poet Lenore Kandel. The black-and-white illustrations are well chosen and include book covers, photographs, and works of art. The footnotes are stimulating, and most are a generous paragraph long. The indexing is thorough and the bibliography full. This is one of the best studies of Beat writers in recent times. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. -- B. Almon, University of Alberta

(B. Almon CHOICE 2011-06-01)

About the Author

Erik Mortenson is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. He has published essays on the Beats in a number of journals and in several books. 

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Kramer on April 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Throughout the years I've read countless works by and about the Beats. I thought I understood their motivations. The beauty of this book is it helps both the casual reader and the academic re-examine the movement's focus on immediacy. Mortenson clearly knows his stuff, and while reading it I was often surprised at how much I misunderstood these writers and thinkers. Mortenson includes all the heavy-hitters as well as the more underground players. The book also helped me see the movement from a different angle I didn't expect. It's invaluable to anyone studying this important time in American history, and it's an important resource for those focusing on the cultural significance of these writers. I highly recommend it.
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