As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Bohemia provided a liminal territory between the regional and the national. This expansive cultural terrain mapped and at the same time displaced the divide between the national and the global. From its very beginnings of Pfaff's in New York City, American Bohemianism had promoted a cosmopolitan blend of cultural forms. Invoking the gypsies (via the Parisian Latin Quarter), Bohemia represented both sophistication and cultural degeneration. The debate over la vie bohème intensified at the turn of the century, with the familiar Bohemian-Bourgeois divide often highlighting a tension between more restrictive and more multicultural conceptions of national identity. Self-declared Bohemians aligned themselves with the latter and their opponents with the former. This chapter explores the cultural significance of multicultural and cosmopolitan “Bohemia,” with an emphasis on how Bohemia acted as a buffer zone between the nation and its new immigrants. It also looks at Frank Norris' account of “Bohemian” San Francisco.
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