William S. Burroughs: The Life, the Myth, the Influence

April 25, 2014 +
Free and open to the public at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Ave. (at 34th Street) in Manhattan.+
10:00 a.m. “Editing Burroughs” — John Bennett and Geoffrey Smith+
11:00 a.m. “Burroughs and Literary Magazines” — Jed Birmingham, Charles Plymell, and Jan Herman
+2:00 p.m. “Biography and Photography” — Barry Miles in conversation with Oliver Harris
+3:30 p.m. “Gender Trouble” — Anne Waldman, Regina Weinreich, and Ann Douglas
+5:30 p.m. Keynote: “Cutting up the Trilogy” — Oliver Harris
The building and the venues are fully accessible. For more information, visit The Center for Humanities or call 212.817.2005 or e-mail ch@gc.cuny.edu .

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  1. says

    What a fun day it would be to visit this conference – and right there below the Empire State building and all of New York’s excitement and bustle. I suspect there will be many interesting people around.
    Especially interesting is the session on gender. All that macho libertarianism of the beats could use more examination.

    Burroughs’ writing is almost always morally oriented. At the same time, it seems like he is screaming to himself about his own moral insight rather than trying to really change the world. One of the great failings of post-war thought and culture in America seemed to revolve around the problems of combining concepts of radical freedom with social responsibility. As a result, some good ideas and movements lacked the substance to sustain themselves. The indulgent generosity of flower power was replaced by selfish Yuppiedom.

    The civil rights movement is the enduring legacy of the era exactly because it had a stronger moral and social grounding. The session on gender might touch on the “un-American” idea that even libertarian concepts of freedom need to be socially oriented if they are to be sustained. Would the beats (those heroic cold war individualists) rankle at that idea? Ironically, it bothers me too, because terms like “morality” and “social responsibility” have been so abused that they are disgraced in American society. Whose interests are served by that?

  2. says

    Thanks for the comment. The idea that “even libertarian concepts of freedom need to be socially oriented if they are to be sustained” makes an awful lot of sense. But it shouldn’t only be tied to the session on gender.