William S. Burroughs Cutting Up the Century

William S. Burroughs Cutting Up the Century

Edited by Joan Hawkins and Henry Alexander Wermer-Colan, contributions by Charles Cannon and Tony A. Brewer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/17/2019
Format: Paperback 32 color illus., 23 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04133-3
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William S. Burroughs Cutting Up the Century is the definitive book on Burroughs' overarching cut-up project and its relevance to the American twentieth century. Burroughs's Nova Trilogy (The Soft Machine, Nova Express, and The Ticket That Exploded) remains the best-known of his textual cut-up creations, but he committed more than a decade of his life to searching out multimedia for use in works of collage. By cutting up, folding in, and splicing together newspapers, magazines, letters, book reviews, classical literature, audio recordings, photographs, and films, Burroughs created an eclectic and wide-ranging countercultural archive. This collection includes previously unpublished work by Burroughs such as cut-ups of work written by his son, cut-ups of critical responses to his own work, collages on the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, excerpts from his dream journals, and some of the few diary entries that Burroughs wrote about his wife, Joan.

William S. Burroughs Cutting Up the Century also features original essays, interviews, and discussions by established Burroughs scholars, respected artists, and people who encountered Burroughs. The essays consider Burroughs from a range of starting points—literary studies, media studies, popular culture, gender studies, post-colonialism, history, and geography. Ultimately, the collection situates Burroughs as a central artist and thinker of his time and considers his insights on political and social problems that have become even more dire in ours.

Author Bio

Joan Hawkins is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the Media School at Indiana University. She is author of Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde and editor of the anthology Downtown Film and TV Culture, 1975-2001. She co-organized the Burroughs Century conference and symposium held at Indiana University Bloomington in 2014.

Alex Wermer-Colan is a Council of Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple Universitys Digital Scholarship Center. He researched and edited The Travel Agency is on Fire, a collection of unpublished archival materials, prose poems Burroughs produced by cutting up a range of canonical texts. Wermer-Colan was the organizer of the William S. Burroughs Centennial Conference held at the City University of New York in 2014.




Cutting up the Century is the book that scholars and enthusiasts of Burroughs' avant-garde practices have been waiting for.


 (Douglas Field, author of All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin)

"A landmark in scholarship. . . . Highly recommended."


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Table of Contents


Collage of Time Harvard Lampoon Parody, William S. Burroughs, facsimile, 1965

Introduction: Cutting Up the Century / Alex Wermer-Colan and Joan Hawkins

Biographical Timeline


1. Cutting Up the Century / Oliver Harris

The Reality Studio


Deposition of the Ugly Spirit, William S. Burroughs, typescript, Villa Muniria, Summer 1961

2. Burroughs and Biography: An Interview with Barry Miles / Oliver Harris

Cutting Up the Critics, typescripts, 1962–64

3. The Nova Convention: Celebrating the Burroughs of Downtown New York / Kristen Galvin

Nova Convention Poster, Sylvere Lotringer, facsimile, 1978

4. The Disembodied Fry: William S. Burroughs and Vocal Performance / Landon Palmer

Cut-up with Limericks, William S. Burroughs, typescript, 1971

5. William S. Burroughs' Spirit of Collaboration / Allen Hibbard


6. Burroughs and the Biosphere, 1974–1997 / Kathelin Gray

The Permissive Society, William S. Burroughs, typescript, 1971

7. Beat Regionalism: Burroughs in Mexico, Burroughs in Women's Studies / Aaron Nyerges

Collage of Newsclippings, William S. Burroughs, facsimile, 1970

8. Interference Zones: William Burroughs in the Interstices of Globalization / Timothy S. Murphy

On China

9. Cut-Up City: William S. Burroughs' "St. Louis Return" / Eric Sandweiss


On Addiction

10. William S. Burroughs' Imperial Decadence: Subversive Literature in the Cynical Age of the American Century / Alex Wermer-Colan

Opium Collage, William S. Burroughs, typescript, Dream Rat Calendar, Monday Bellevue 4, 1970

11. Naked Lunch and the Art of Incompleteness: The Use of Genre in Burroughs' Book and Cronenberg's Film / Joshua Vasquez

The Fall of Art

12. Queer Outlaws Losing: The Betrayal of the Outlaw Underground in The Place of Dead Roads / Kurt Hemmer

Thinking in Colors

13. Rimbaud and Genet, Burroughs' Favorite Mirrors / Véronique Lane


On the Cut-Up

14. Cross the Wounded Galaxies: A Conversation about the Cut-Up Trilogy / Davis Schneiderman and Oliver Harris

The Photo Collage: Watergate

15. "Word FallingPhoto Falling": William S. Burroughs and the Word as Written Image / Blake Stricklin

Cutting Up Scientology

16. Mutable Forms: The Proto-Ecology of William Burroughs' Early Cut-Ups / Chad Weidner


The Wild Boys, A Pornographic Screenplay

17. William S. Burroughs, Transcendence Porn, and The Ticket That Exploded / Katharine Streip

Dream Note on Indictment for Murdering Joan, William S. Burroughs

18. Gender Trouble: A Critical Roundtable on Burroughs and Gender / Ann Douglas, Anne Waldman, and Regina Weinreich

Cutting Up Last Words

19. The Burroughs Effect / Anne Waldman

Root Face, William S. Burroughs, facsimile, 1987