Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Newman, Amy (Amy Lynn)

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Ginsberg; Allen; 1926- Poems--Criticism and interpretation


Allen Ginsberg's method of spontaneous composition and his emphasis on performance give rise to poetry that exhibits characteristics of traditional oral literature. Ginsberg himself was aware of this similarity and often studied and spoke of oral traditions. Stylistic analysis clearly shows that Ginsberg's poetry makes use of an oral rather than a written register of English. Ginsberg's influences are as various as William Blake, jazz music, and Buddhism. His Vajrayana guru, Chogyam Trungpa, provided a strong impetus for Ginsberg to move from performance of previously written material to extemporaneous composition on stage. The value that Ginsberg learned to place on spontaneity and self-trust and the training he received from Trungpa, encouraged his increasingly oral approach to his poetry. The media's response Ginsberg's poetry was often antagonistic, and Ginsberg made use of the agonistic nature of oral poetry to encourage and reply to such responses. He also uses the performative power of oral poetry to fight the media's tendency to interpellate him and the other Beats by naming him into a particular social space. Ginsberg reclaims labels having to do with his mental health, sexual identity, and political viewpoints---often areas attacked by the media and by critics. Analyzing several performances of Ginsberg's poetry reveals that he makes use of an intonational rather than stress-based meter. The intonational meter allows him to innovate on stage and thus leads to each performance of the poem being separate and distinct from any possible ur-text. Therefore, it is possible to regard Ginsberg's written poetry as a script rather than as the definitive text and the performance of those scripts as the instantiations of the poem. Even Ginsberg's early spontaneous poetry is largely a recording of a performance on paper due to his reluctance to revise. This study encourages a widening of the definition of oral literature and a reconsideration of literate authors' place along the oral-literate poetic spectrum.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [198]-202).


202 pages




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