Varner's interest in the Beat Movement began early. "As a twenty-something San Franciscan in the 1960s, I remember encountering the poetry of the Beat Movement, poetry I could relate to," he says. "Subsequently, I became an English major in college and began my career as a student and professor of literature. I was approached by my editor about exploring the Beat Movement in book form, and felt this might be a great avenue for exploring my intellectual origins."
The Movement spans decades, beginning in the 1950s and continuing today in a postmodern form. "Arguably, the Beat Movement was the most significant literary movement of the 20th century," Varner says.
His book covers the movement's history through a chronology, an introductory essay, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has more than 700 cross-referenced entries on significant people, themes and critical issues, and the most important novels, poems and volumes of poetry and prose in the Beat canon. The work provides an access point for students, researchers and individuals interested in the Beat Movement.
During his time as scholar in residence, Varner has published three other scholarly works. The Historical Dictionary of the Beat Movement joins two previous volumes in the series, Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema (2008) and Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Literature (2010). He also edited
a collection of scholarly essays titled Westerns: Paperback Novels and Movies from Hollywood. ACU's Dr. Stephen Weathers contributed an essay to that volume.
Varner is currently under contract for two additional works, another historical dictionary on romanticism in literature and an edited collection of scholarly essays on Western American literature.
"In the classroom, I teach our English majors how to do research in literature," Varner says. "Therefore, I should be fully engaged in it myself and remain up-to-date on the current scholarship in my field. When I write, I show my students every step of the process so they can then develop their own research."