2. A Fateful Performance Location: Miller Theatre

Allen Ginsberg, a member of the beat generation, hosted a poetry reading at Miller Theater.
Allen Ginsberg returned to Columbia University to read a poem at Miller Theater.

Despite a tenuous relationship with Columbia University, Ginsberg returned to the University to read some of his work. Invited by the John Dewey Society — a society aiming to recognize problems in education and culture — Ginsberg read some of his work to a crowd of 1,400 in Miller Theatre. At the time, this theater was called McMillin Theater. Despite the following Ginsberg had earned throughout the decade since his graduation, few professors attended his reading. Many still despised him for the trouble he caused at the University.

Although Ginsberg read poetry at many locations, his performance at McMillin marked the effects the Beat poets had on their generation. While most professors stayed home, some of their wives attended the performance. Diana Trilling — the wife of Lionel Trilling, one of Ginsberg’s least favorite professors — wrote a piece about the event for the Partisan Review. In the piece, she remarked there was an “unfathomable gap that was all so quickly and meaningfully opening up between the evening that had been and the evening that was now so surely reclaiming me.” Some professors rebuked her for enjoying the performance. Now, Ginsberg’s name, along with the names of other Beat Generation writers, appear on the syllabi of many Columbia University classes. Here, students debate the greatness of the Beat Generation and their effects on the literary world.