American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century

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9780805067354: American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century
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A brilliant account of the legary American bohemians, hailed as "the best book ever written about this era, these people, and the ways they shook up our national culture for good" (Michael Kazin)

In the early years of the twentieth century, an exuberant band of talented individualists living in a shabby neighborhood called Greenwich Village set out to change the world. Committed to free speech, free love, and politically engaged art, they swept away sexual prudery, stodgy bourgeois art, and political conservatism as they clamorously declared the birth of the new.

Christine Stansell offers the first comprehensive history of this legary period. She takes us deep into the downtown bohemia, which brought together creative dissenters from all walks of life: hoboes and Harvard men, society matrons and immigrant Jews, Wobblies and New Women, poets and anarchists. And she depicts their lyrical hopes for the century they felt they were sponsoring -- a radiant vision of modernity, both egalitarian and artful, that flourished briefly, poignantly, until America entered the First World War and patriotism trumped self-expression.

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Review:

"On or about December 1910," Virginia Woolf once wrote, "human character changed." In the great capitals of Europe and America, the gray veil of Victorian values lifted; modernism, once the province of a few artistic experimenters, took the fore; subjects hitherto not considered to be fit for polite society, from women's rights to free love, became the subjects of parlor discussion.

New York's Greenwich Village, writes Princeton University historian Christine Stansell in this engaging study, became the epicenter of this great social earthquake. Fueled by wealthy patrons and fed by refugees from Europe and the Midwest, New York's once isolated bohemian community generated social trends that would be widely copied, and in the process "made Greenwich Village into a beacon of American possibility in the new age." Among their number were the anarchist politician Emma Goldman, the radical journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant, and the writers Eugene O'Neill and Kenneth Burke, all of whom insisted on making an art form of one's life--and on rattling a few cages while doing so. The individual actors in this social revolution, Stansell observes, may be little remembered today, but elements of their belief--openness in social relationships, equality among men and women, and "a skepticism at once relentlessly questioning of America and entirely embroiled in its future"--are our common coin today. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Christine Stansell, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author of City of Women: Sex and Class in New York City, 1789-1860. Her essays and reviews appear regularly in The New Republic and The London Review of Books. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780691142838: American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century

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ISBN 10:  0691142831 ISBN 13:  9780691142838
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2009
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9780805048476: American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century

Metrop..., 2000
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