Abstract

William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch has left an indelible imprint on American literary culture. As the last novel legally suppressed for obscenity in the U.S., its 1966 triumph in the courts cleared the way for free literary discourse. Professed by Burroughs himself as too profane to print in America, Naked Lunch did not accidentally stumble upon the role of champion for free speech. Enshrouded in its reputation as filthy, immoral and depraved, Naked Lunch was repudiated by prudish society and thus desired as forbidden fruit by readers of the 1950s and 1960s. Because of its highly publicized subversive status, the book would always be overshadowed by its notoriety. By examining both the production and reception of this incendiary book—necessarily interrelated aspects—this article argues that it was purposefully packaged as (lucratively) controversial and that the sensational marketing of the text dictated the interpretation of the language printed between its well-planned front and back covers.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 98-125
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-11
Open Access
No
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