The Priest They Called Him: The Experimental Work of William Burroughs


  • Jelena Mandić University of Novi Sad, Serbia


Th is paper centres on William Burroughs’ writing and ideas, which changed the course of literature, and his multi-media collaborations, which generated new directions in music and film. Although primarily known for his involvement with the Beat Generation, he is one of the most prominent figures in the emergence of the postwar counterculture, a transgressive author with an absolute dedication to experimentation in narrative form and structure. He defines a literary evolution of the self in his rejection of American conservative society. Introducing the cut-up and fold-in techniques, he produces unexpected conjunctions and challenges a common understanding of the world. Much of his narratives are a working through of his thesis that the word – language – is a virus. The virus notion is accompanied by the concept of power and control defined in terms of drug addiction. Burroughs claims that dominating systems degrade us and reduce us to a level of totally repressed human beings that do not question the existing sociopolitical order and live in the accepted constructs of reality. These hidden mechanisms are also present in contemporary mass media. For this reason, he creates a new world, which liberates readers from the dominance of the established society, allowing them to form all their perception anew. His truly revolutionary ideas have inspired and creatively exhilarated many writers, musicians and artists who undertook a variety of collaborative multi-media ventures with him. These collaborations were, again, attempts to escape from authorial constraints and shape art production towards “making the words talk on their own.” They alter the complex interweave of creativity in the (post)modern age.