Module code: ELI3043

Module Overview

The Beat Generation writers scandalised and shocked mid-20th Century American culture, challenging societal norms of gender, politics, religion and spirituality, race, sexuality, sex, drugs and music alongside proposing radical literary practices that struck at the heart of polite literary society. They, and their writings, were seen as wild, unpredictable, dangerous and transgressive. This was the birth of youth culture.

In this course, students will be introduced to key aspects of and movements in Beat writing, through the techniques employed by the writers themselves, from the spontaneous writing of Jack Kerouac, the paranoia cut-up methods of William Burroughs, the visionary ‘madness’ of Allen Ginsberg to the writings on gender and race of Anne Waldman, John Wieners and Leroi Jones. Alongside this we will look at the writing practices of the Beat writers of the San Francisco Renaissance, for example the beast language of Michael McClure and the Zen poetics of Gary Snyder.

In each workshop we will first spend some time discussing the set texts and the techniques employed by those writers concerned, before moving on to the workshop part of the class where students will produce work in accordance with the task set for that week. We will read and discuss a selection of pieces at the end of each class.

At the end of the semester students will produce a creative portfolio of Beat or Beat-inspired writing, alongside a critical essay and commentary reflecting on the creative work produced and using theories, concepts and practices studied on the module, OR an academic critical essay examining some aspect of the Beat Writing phenomenon.

This module connects to other contemporary literature modules on the programme in the 2nd and final year where the emphasis is on 20th and 21st Century approaches to creating and examining literatures and our cultural responses to them. As such, it is part of the contemporary literature route that students can choose as a focus of their degree.

As a hybrid creative writing and English literature module, it also makes up part of the creative writing pathway in the degree, connecting to creative writing modules in the 1st, 2nd and final years.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

MOONEY Stephen (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 2

Independent Learning Hours: 109

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 6

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None. This module has a capped number and may not be available to ERASMUS and other international exchange students. Please check with the departmental exchange coordinator.

Module content

The following areas are indicative of topics to be covered:


  • Beat and its Interpretations

  • Spontaneous Writing

  • Visionary Beat

  • The Paranoia Cut-Up

  • Bop Prosody

  • Meat Writing

  • Zen Writing

  • Fast Speaking Women

  • Beat Memoir

  • Gender and Transgression in the Beats

  • Violence, Transgression, Anger in the Social Beat

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • the development in their writing skills in academic prose, and/or creative writing (prose fiction,  poetry, drama script, screenplay, graphic novel and other forms) and professional writing more widely that will feed forward into their future careers as writers and /or critics

  • their understanding of the context of their work in historical and cultural terms, as well as in terms of other creative writing in the field such as cultural and ecological sustainability

  • their development of varied and diverse research and writing skills through the broad range of assessment submission possibilities incorporated into the open-ended assessment type integral to the module

  • productive and informed critical reflection on both the literary writing itself and the critical and secondary material that surrounds it, and/or both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it

  • individual critical and/or creative responses to the subject material via a diverse range of assessment submission options designed to appeal to diverse and inclusive learning and composition practices and/or to allow students to select assessment types most useful to them in planning for their current professional orientation or future employment plans

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

End of semester Creative Piece (2400 words in prose or equivalent in other forms) plus critical essay and commentary (600 words) OR Critical Essay (3000 words)


Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback and formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, and tutor and peer feedback in seminars, on short pieces (250-500 words of prose, or equivalent in another form) presented as part of the confidence building safe space of the creative writing workshop element of the classes.

Each student can expect to present 2-3 such pieces over the course of the semester according to a schedule worked out between the tutor and the student cohort.

Written and/or oral tutor feedback will also be provided on one piece of creative writing (maximum of 1000 words or equivalent for poetry or other form) during the course of the module (the student is free to submit this at any point of the semester).

As such, writing, presentation and critical analysis skills will be developed and honed which will feed forward to the summative assessment at the end of the module. There is the option of a range of other feedback mechanisms agreed between tutor and students in week 1 of the module, such as seminar contribution and writing exercises.


Module aims

  • The module aims to: develop in students a thorough critical understanding of Beat Generation writing in the context of mid-20th Century culture through a range of prose, poetic and dramatic texts
  • develop the ability in students to analyse and appraise compositional styles and techniques in the Beat writing mode, and apply critical insights to their own writing practices OR published works
  • facilitate the acquiring of the detailed knowledge and skills necessary for producing Beat writing
  • help students attain the ability to apply critical awareness to one¿s own creative writing OR published works, contributing to the employability skills useful for students considering careers within and beyond the literary industries
  • encourage students to work as a group in the production of collaborative work in the supportive workshop context
  • expand student¿s understanding of the context of mid- to late-20th century ecological concerns in Beat Writing
  • encourage students to submit work for publication

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will have: gained significant confidence and ability in critical analysis and thinking C
002 Gained an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers applicable to a wide range of career pathways alongside that of creative writer KPT
003 More fully developed their sense of their own practice as writers and/or that of other writers in relation to mid 20th century practices that have had, and continue to have, a significant formative effects on contemporary writing KPT
004 Developed a stronger sense of the materials and techniques available to them as writers, and to other writers, and begun to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing KCP
005 Established a knowledge of the context of radical and experimental writing practices that were instrumental in the formulation of the wider development of youth culture and connected this to cultural and ecological sustainability issues K
006 Developed the confidence and resilience to share work and discuss that of others within the supportive workshop environment and the weekly gaming session PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Hone and develop students’ writing skills in academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction and/or poetry) by helping students understand the context of radical and experimental writing practices that were instrumental in the formulation of the wider development of youth culture through the study of canonical and alternative texts and writerly techniques and practices and applying tis knowledge to their own work

  • Assist students in locating literary texts and their critical writing, and/or their creative work in historical and cultural contexts by developing a stronger sense of the materials and techniques available to them as writers, and begun to locate their work within the context of contemporary writing, and by more fully developing their sense of their own practice as writers in relation to mid 20th century practices that have had, and continue to have, a significant formative effects on contemporary writing through workshopping and discussing their own work and those of other students

  • Equip students with the research and writing skills they will need to produce critically informed academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction and/or poetry) and creative criticism by helping them gain significant confidence and ability in critical analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers  

The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning.

Students will engage with preparatory reading, including creative work by other students, in advance of the seminar which will combine discussion of interrelated critical ideas and texts with in-class creative or critical writing exercises each week. Designed to help students reflect on and apply their learning to creative and critical outputs, the workshop environment acts as a safe space for developing and exchanging ideas, support and writing skills.

Varied learning materials such as lexical texts, visual materials, sculptural objects and other physical material prompts, video and sound objects are designed to increase student accessibility and will present them with a range of interpretive materials and approaches with which to work and develop their own thinking and creative responses.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELI3043

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: This module acts alongside other final year modules in both the English literature and creative writing streams to help students hone to a more highly polished and professional standard their writing, composition and communication skills, as critics and/or as creative writers. In this final year module you will get the chance as an English Literature student to study highly contextualised and influential contemporary literary forms, texts and literary devices and explore the subtleties and nuances of language that responds to late-capitalism and its uses of language not just in a cultural context, but also in relation to economies of writing and literary production which will be of interest to all students interested in the literary industries as employers and objects of study and analysis. This feeds directly into the writing, language and analytical skills you develop as part of your degree progression that are prized so highly by modern employers in literature and writing students. Alongside this, exposure to key critical materials will help hone your analytical skills even further.
As a creative writing student, you will get the chance to explore literary form, style and language from a critical and influential period in literary history alongside the study of pivotal works from the period and alongside key critical materials that will help you develop and contextualise your own writing. We will look at areas such as modernist and post-modernist forms, identity writing, meaning and nuance in radical and experimental writing, interfaces between lexical text and the visual arts, narrative and non-narrative modes of writing and other formal aspects of the writing craft.
The skills developed in this module, developed from earlier literature and creative writing modules throughout your degree, will help equip you for the vast range of employment and career pathways that our students go on to after (and sometimes during) their degree, beyond that of academic or creative writer (novelist, poet, non-fiction writer, for example). Amongst these are: copywriting, editorial roles, teaching, publishing, marketing, proofreading, journalism and social media roles of all types just to name a few.
For both English literature and creative writing students, you will get the opportunity to experiment with and present critical and creative work in the workshop settings as well as respond to the work of other writers and critics, another set of key skills that English literature and creative writing bring to the table in a host of career and employment settings.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: Literature and creative writing are fields that teach us about the human experience and our part in local and global cultures, facilitating exchange of ideas and experiences and helping to foster creative and cultural empathy in readers and writers of all kinds across the globe. Creative and critical writing in these fields also play a very important recording and preservation role in narrativising
and keeping alive and vibrant different cultures and experiences, especially those that might otherwise be silenced or endangered.In this module you examine the explosive literature of the mid-20th century American counterculture that challenged orthodoxies of gender, race and identity and that spread across the globe in different, and often problematic, ways.

You will be asked to respond critically or creatively to texts and modes of writing from this turbulent social, cultural and literary period, and are encouraged to share and/or write your experiences and knowledge through the lenses of, or in response to, this pivotal conflux of political and social movements (such as the anti-war movement, women’s liberation, the civil rights movement, gay rights, and more) in relation to your own cultures and backgrounds, to think about those of other students and writers, to respect and value differences in experience and to bring this knowledge into your critical and creative writing practice.
The weekly seminar and workshopping sessions give students the opportunity to present your own narrative to the cultural and literary context of ‘Beat Writing’ and to experience and respond to those of others in a friendly, constructive and open forum.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: English Literature as a discipline exposes us to different, varied and diverse experiences from history as well as our contemporary world. These literatures and the critical material around them teach us many things about ourselves as people, individuals and communities. How and why we behave and think the ways we do, how we cope with the challenges that our lives (and our lives in university!) throw at us. This module is no exception, exploring as it does the radical anti-establishment forces that changed mid-20th   century American and global society and culture in vital ways, reminding us forcefully that we can reshape our communities in ways that better reflect our own needs as individuals and citizens. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, student activism and more all took huge steps forward in this period and stand as hopeful and inspiring examples for students and writers today. Famously, literature conveys important lessons, comfort and significance (emotional, mental and spiritual) to us through the medium of language, not just in what it says, but how it says it. Beat Writers created new, vibrant and liberatory methods of literary expression that still inspire today. For creative writing students, the life of a writer can often be a solitary and isolating one. This module, through workshopping, group work and shared writerly experience will help equip you for the real world setting of your current and future writing practice. You will also continue to hone the critical contextualising faculties that you have been developing throughout your degree in other creative writing modules, through constructive critical workshopping of your work and those of your peer writing community. The creative writing workshop in your final year modules is even more so than in earlier years a forum for you to receive support, encouragement and practically helpful feedback in a friendly and encouraging environment that is difficult to replicate outside of university. The writing friendships and writerly connections you make in your creative writing seminars and workshops you will likely carry forward throughout your career as a writer. You will also benefit from the experience of your tutors as professional writers working today and from periodic guest speakers attached to this and other creative writing modules in relation to your practice as a writer, the practicalities of building a portfolio of writing and a profile as a writer, the realities of the publishing industries and the importance of connecting to writing communities that will be essential to your current and future emotional and practical wellbeing and success as a writer.

Sustainability: On this module, you will study, as part of our examination of the social and pollical context of Beat Writing, the work of writers such as Gary Snyder, Michael McClure and Joanne Kyger whose work has been categorised as early eco-writing, powerfully concerned about the exploitation of the planet’s natural resources, including natural ecosystems and the ‘voices’ of animal and plant life, often (but not always) in relation to Buddhist teachings of balance and sustainability. Creative writing students will also have the opportunity to write their own sustainability narratives in their current context in response to the ideas and techniques encountered in the writings on this module. In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree in the 2nd and final years that also have a strong focus on cultural and ecological sustainability.

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.