Insistent Change: Columbia’s Core Curriculum at 100

1950s > The Beats

The Beats

By the late 1950s, the rising generation began to rankle under the comfortable conventionalities their war-shaken parents had so carefully reconstructed. But if "middlebrow" had lost its luster, Humanities A had not. Inspired by the romantic poets they had encountered in the classrooms of Lionel Trilling and Mark van Doren, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac embarked on their own epic exploration of America's unconscious currents. In such works as Howl and On the Road, they became known as "the Beats" and ushered in the counterculture.

Mark Van Doren

Mark Van Doren joined the Columbia University faculty in 1920, having been preceded by his brother Carl. Mark Van Doren went on to become one of Columbia's greatest teachers and a "legendary classroom presence"; he became a full professor in 1942, and taught English until 1959, at which point he became Professor Emeritus until his death in 1972. His students at Columbia included the Beat poets and writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. 

Mark van Doren

Mark van Doren, 1930s

Click here for item information

Columbia University Libraries / University Archives / Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-3786 /