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"Forest Beatniks" and "Urban Thoreaus"

Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Lew Welch, and Michael McClure


Rod Phillips

The Beat Movement, which first rose to attention in 1955, has often been viewed by critics as an urban phenomenon —the product of a postwar-youth culture with roots in the cities of New York and San Francisco. This study examines another side of the Beat Movement: its strong desire for a reconnection with nature. Although each took a different path in attaining this goal, the writers considered here—Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Lew Welch, and Michael McClure—sought a new and closer connection to the natural world. These four writers, along with many of their counterparts in the Beat era, provided a crucial spark that helped to ignite the environmental movement of the 1970s and provided the foundation for the development of the current "Deep Ecology" worldview.