Memoirs of the Beat Generation Women as an Antidote to Nostalgia for the Fifties

  • Anna SłoninaEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


This paper is an attempt to discuss nostalgia and memory in relation to life-writing, specifically to memoirs by the women of the Beat Generation. Two memoirs have been chosen for this purpose: Bonnie Bremser’s Troia: Mexican Memoirs and Nobody’s Wife: The Smart Aleck and the King of the Beats by Joan Haverty Kerouac. The Seventies in the United States witnessed a powerful wave of omnipresent nostalgia for the “Good Old Days”—it became known as a decade of the Fifties revival. The ubiquitous nostalgia was a phenomenon on a national scale with people recalling the Fifties as an era of stability, peace, and amusement. Some critics suggest that the reason for such a massive, collective longing for a past decade can be found in the nation’s dissatisfaction with the present. Nostalgic reminiscing offered comfort and distraction from everyday hardships in a time of crisis. However, nostalgia—as comforting as it may be—also produces distortions in one’s perception of the past and misrepresentations of the longed-for decade. Some scholars agree that nostalgia has both selective and inventive powers—it affects the way we choose our memories, select them from a pool of recollections, and how we tailor them to our current situation. By means of nostalgia not only do we recollect the past, but we also construct it. Such collective nostalgia differs significantly from nostalgia experienced on an individual level. Svetlana Boym’s concepts of restorative and reflective nostalgia help describe these differences. In this article the collective nostalgia for the Fifties is contrasted with nostalgia as experienced by an individual. Nostalgia is then discussed with reference to memoirs in which memory plays a crucial role. Memoirs of women of the Beat Generation discussed here, whose artistic and literary work in the Fifties was neglected and overshadowed by the male Beats, can be treated as an antidote to nostalgia, as they present a vision of the Fifties which stands in stark contrast with the rose-tinted general, nostalgic view of the decade.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kazimierz Wielki UniversityBydgoszczPoland

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