The romance of Bohemia in France was popularized and largely invented by Henri Murger in the mid-nineteenth century. A decade later, Bohemianism reached the United States courtesy of a group of American writers, painters, and actors who sought to create a self-consciously American version of la vie bohème. From its inception, American Bohemianism has exploited the foreignness of Bohemia to launch cultural criticism, expand aesthetic possibilities, and promote cosmopolitan aspiration. This book explores how Bohemia was created in American literature and culture. It examines how Bohemia charted and tested “the boundaries of bourgeois life” and how it moved in and out of literary genres, styles, cultural institutions, and social geographies. It investigates how the earliest groups of U.S. Bohemians defined themselves through the imagined community of Bohemia, first in New York City and then in San Francisco. In addition, it considers the romance of Bohemia after it had become more broadly disseminated throughout the United States.
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