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Translating the Counterculture

Translating the Counterculture

The Reception of the Beats in Turkey

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Erik Mortenson


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
278 pages, 6 x 9, 14 illustrations


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About the Book

In Turkey the Beat message of dissent is being given renewed life as publishers, editors, critics, readers, and others dissatisfied with the conservative social and political trends in the country have turned to the Beats and other countercultural forebears for alternatives. Through an examination of a broad range of literary translations, media portrayals, interviews, and other related materials, this book seeks to uncover how the Beats and their texts are being circulated, discussed, and used in Turkey to rethink the possibilities they might hold for social critique today.
Mortenson examines how in Turkey the Beats have been framed by the label “underground literature”; explores the ways they are repurposed in the counterculture-inspired journal Underground Poetix; looks at the reception of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and how that reaction provides a better understanding of the construction of “American-ness”; delves into the recent obscenity trial of William S. Burroughs’s novel The Soft Machine and the attention the book’s supporters brought to government repression and Turkish homophobia; and analyzes the various translations of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl to demonstrate the relevance Ginsberg still holds for social rebellion today.
Translating the Counterculture takes a revolutionary look at how contemporary readers in other parts of the world respond to the Beats. Challenging and unsettling an American-centric understanding of the Beats, Mortenson pushes the discipline toward a fuller consideration of their cultural legacy in a globalized twenty-first century.


Erik Mortenson spent ten years as an assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Koç University in Istanbul and is now a senior lecturer at Wayne State University’s Honors College in Detroit. He is the author of Ambiguous Borderlands: Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture (2016) and Capturing the Beat Moment: Cultural Politics and the Poetics of Presence, which was selected as a Choice outstanding academic title in 2011.


“Innovative in both method and material, this book testifies not only to the continuing global relevance of the Beats but also to the academic opportunities opened up by the end of the American Century.”—Loren Glass, University of Iowa

“This book is an inspiration for the reading of different cultural contexts in a transnational lens. Mortenson makes a significant contribution to a wide variety of fields including American literature studies, cultural studies, transnationalism studies, youth studies, and modern Turkey studies.”—Demet Lüküslü, author of The “Myth of Youth” in Turkey: The Post-1980 Youth in Turkey