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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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“A Plot to Live Around”: La Vie Bohème in Fiction, City Sketches, and Memoir

“A Plot to Live Around”: La Vie Bohème in Fiction, City Sketches, and Memoir

(p.125) 3 “A Plot to Live Around”: La Vie Bohème in Fiction, City Sketches, and Memoir
Bohemia in America, 1858-1920
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines the stock Bohemian settings and plots in American literature and art. It explores how novels, dramas, and city sketches recycled and recontextualized Henri Murger's Scenes, which culminated in the “Trilbymania” of the 1890s and the revival of Murger in Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème, performed for the first time in New York in 1898. All of these narratives imply that living in Bohemia is like living with the utmost intensity and spirit. Moreover, they reveal the different social conflicts that “Bohemia” continued to chart and negotiate: Bohemian plots often deal with overlapping tensions between artists and “Philistines,” propriety and license, wealth and poverty, men and women, art and life, “feminine Bohemianism” and traditional womanhood, and America and Europe. The chapter highlights these conflicts and analyzes canonical texts such as Henry James's The Ambassadors (1903), along with numerous stories, sketches, and popular novels.

Keywords:   Bohemia, Bohemianism, American literature, Trilbymania, Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème, Henry James, The Ambassadors, Henri Murger, Scenes

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