1st Edition

Beat Feminisms Aesthetics, Literature, Gender, Activism

By Polina Mackay Copyright 2022
    186 Pages
    by Routledge

    186 Pages
    by Routledge

    This is the first book-length study to read women of the Beat Generation as feminist writers. The book focuses on one author from each of the three generations that comprise the groups of female writers associated with the Beats – Diane di Prima, ruth weiss and Anne Waldman – as well as on experimental and multimedia artists, such as Laurie Anderson and Kathy Acker, who have not been read through the prism of Beat feminism before. This book argues that these writers’ feminism evolved over time but persistently focussed on intertextuality, transformation, revisionism, gender,  interventionist poetics and activism. It demonstrates how these Beat feminisms counteract the ways in which women have been undermined, possessed or silenced.


    Introduction: The Beat Aesthetic

    1. Female Subjectivities in Beat Textuality by Male Authors
    2. Narratives of Emergence: Diane di Prima’s This Kind of Bird Flies Backward and Dinners and Nightmares
    3. Clarity of Vision through Transformation in ruth weiss’ Desert Journal
    4. Feminist Revision in Diane di Prima’s Loba
    5. Radical Interventions: Laurie Anderson, Anne Waldman and Kathy Acker Do Burroughs
    6. Activism, Gender and the Feminist Form in Anne Waldman: Fast Speaking Woman and The Iovis Trilogy


    Polina Mackay is an Associate Professor of English and Head of the Department of Languages and Literature at the University of Nicosia. She is the Vice President of the European Beat Studies Network and the co-editor of Global Beats, The Beat Generation and Europe, The Cambridge Companion to H.D., Kathy Acker and Transnationalism and Authorship in Context.



    "Beat Feminisms is a deeper gnosis of the complexity always operative in tandem to the male Beats dominance over a range of activist women poets, often underestimated and overlooked. What a welcome reckoning and investigation, vibrant and original, adding a new vortex for Beat Lit. A refreshed lens, and context."

    Anne Waldman, Internationally recognized and acclaimed poet

    "A feminist agenda has been at work for over two decades in Beat Studies, but Polina Mackay’s book is the first to ‘thicken the plot’ by exploring the major women poets both broadly and in close textual detail. Demonstrating an expert eye for tracing the intertextualities of literary history, she examines with particular force the feminist revisionary aesthetics of Diane di Prima and Anne Waldman, while engaging in her own writing back by revising the position of Burroughs as a paradoxical launch pad for the radical art of Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, and Kathy Acker. Written and organized with pedagogic clarity, Beat Feminisms makes an invaluable vademecum for anyone interested in the intersections of gender, poetics and politics"

    — Oliver Harris, President of the European Beat Studies Network

    "One of the great reclamations in American writing has been that of Beat authorship by women. Polina Mackay’s new study contributes stirringly to that understanding and to its map. This is feminist critique with spirit, informed literary intimacy"

    A. Robert Lee, Author of The Beats: Authorships, Legacies

    "A fantastic updating of Beat feminist scholarship...timely and needed"

    — Chad Weidner, Author of The Green Ghost: William Burroughs and the Ecological Mind

    "Mackay's book will become the latest reference for any scholar of Beat women's writing. It offers an engaging account of these authors’ influences, their relationship with feminism, and the transformation of Beat discourses in their work"

    — Isabel Castelao-Gomez, Co-Author of Female Beatness: Mujeres Poetas de la Generacion Beat

    "The avoidance of jargon and clarity of argument makes Beat Feminisms a pleasing read, in a field that can become opaque with theory and advocacy. The extensive bibliography and a full index contribute to the book’s use as a study resource. Mackay’s book will prompt renewed consideration of the way prominent female Beats have viewed themselves as writers and is recommended for students of the Beat Generation and the wider movement, as well as for those researching feminist literature."

    – Alexander Adams, Author of Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism and Iconoclasm, Identity Politics and the Erasure of History.

     "Beat Feminisms is a welcome addition to scholarship on women writers associated with the Beat movement and to scholarship that seeks to expand the literary and social parameters of ‘Beat.’ It is a more than worthwhile book both for readers familiar with Beat women writers and for those just getting to know them."

    Mary Paniccia CardenTulsa Studies in Women's Literature

    "The book is a huge success in terms of its close literary scholarship, offering up unique and thoroughly researched and analyzed readings of these all too often overlooked and yet vital writers. How Beat they actually are is a debate that should and will continue to rage."

    – Ben HealEBSN Reviews

    Beat Feminisms: Aesthetics, Literature, Gender, Activism is an important work. It has the claim of being the first book-length study of female Beats within a feminist perspective and, through its scope of three generations of writers, it provides a clear genealogy – one might say a canon – of female Beats who re-imagined female poetics and, thereby, Beat aesthetics. At the same time, it engages with the theoretical difficulties and debates within feminism and charts how each writer developed aesthetic approaches to those difficulties. […] Above, all, Mackay’s coherent, clear-eyed account makes one want to go back to the authors themselves with a new sense of the importance of their work."

     – Paul StewartZealos Studies in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Arts & Design

    "Beat Feminisms is an important book that challenges its readers to reconsider Beat literature in light of women Beat writers’ engagement with the gendered legacy of male Beat authorship and subjectivity."

    – Azadeh Feridoun PourAustralasian Journal of American Studies

    “The use of extensive bibliography and an extensive index renders Beat Feminisms a valuable resource for scholars of feminist literature. Mackay further reorients, quite usefully, the conversation towards understanding the Beat as a movement rather than a generation, which bears important consequences for the study of American literature and culture”

    – Marietta KosmaTransatlantica: American Studies Journal

     “Beat Feminisms can be read on different levels: as an introduction to women and the Beats; as a teaching tool, by using discrete chapters and/or the whole text with pedagogical possibilities; and as resource for scholars in the field. Mackay offers clear methodology from the start of the book, a Preface that situates the project with accessible language, and a readerly pathway throughout the study. She also offers an extensive Works Cited and Index. Overall, Mackay’s book is a valuable contribution to Beat scholarship and feminist theoretical approaches, as she also gestures toward the encouragement and welcoming of further inclusive Beat feminist scholarship particularly on genders and sexualities”

    – Roseanne Giannini Quinn, Journal of Beat Studies