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Bohemia in America, 1858-1920$
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Joanna Levin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804760836

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804760836.001.0001

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Bret Harte, Urban Spectatorship, and the Bohemian West

Bret Harte, Urban Spectatorship, and the Bohemian West

(p.70) 2 Bret Harte, Urban Spectatorship, and the Bohemian West
Bohemia in America, 1858-1920
Stanford University Press

This chapter explores how “Bohemia” figured in the early writings and careers of Bret Harte, who wrote under the pseudonym “The Bohemian” in a regular column from 1859 to 1863, and other Golden Era authors such as Mark Twain, dubbed the “Sage-Brush Bohemian.” Harte, San Francisco's first self-declared Bohemian, approached San Franciscan life through the discursive framework of the proverbial Bohemian and Bourgeois conflicts between libertinism and self-denial, culture and society. In his columns, Harte ironized and critiqued the city's emerging commodity culture, questioned bourgeois divisions between the “separate spheres,” and expressed a fascination with such ethnic enclaves (and alternatives to the city's dominant ethos) as Chinatown and the Mexican Quarter. This chapter documents Harte's early life and looks at factors that contributed to his Bohemianism.

Keywords:   Bret Harte, Bohemia, Bohemianism, San Francisco, Golden Era, Mark Twain, bourgeois, commodity culture, Chinatown, Mexican Quarter

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