2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish”: Defying and Embracing Death in the Twentieth Century

Abigail E. Dorsey
Dr. Hena Ahmad, Faculty Mentor

Allen Ginsberg’s 1958-1960 collection of poems draws on the poet’s personal griefs and experimentations with various drugs, such as lysergic acid (better known as LSD) and mescaline, and paints a complex portrait of his relationship with death in the twentieth century.  His poem “Kaddish,” inspired by a prayer in Hebrew and acknowledged by many as his best, dedicated to his recently deceased mother, conveys a preoccupation with death and grief that permeates the majority of the poems in the collection.  Through a New Historicist lens, this essay will examine the ways in which his poems, “Kaddish,” “To Aunt Rose,” “At Apollonaire’s Grave,” “Laughing Gas,” “Mescaline,” and “Lysergic Acid,” illuminate Ginsberg’s perceptions of death and life, and more importantly the biographical and historical events of Ginsberg’s lifetime that inform these perceptions.


Keywords: poetry, drugs, New Historicism, The Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish, death


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 101-2
Location: MG 1000
Time: 8:15

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