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American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. By Christine Stansell. (New York: Metropolitan, 2000. x, 420 pp. $30.00, isbn 0-8050-4847-2.)

American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. By Christine Stansell.... Book Reviews 1111 American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the fevered production of books, novels, and the Creation of a New Century. By Christine reform tracts—drew bohemians into commu- Stansell. (New York: Metropolitan, 2000. x, nities of shared ideals and desires. Those com- 420 pp. $30.00, ISBN 0-8050-4847-2.) munities mixed men and women, middle and working classes, Jews and WASPs, and midwest- Do not be misled by this book’s title; this is not erners and easterners, and they opened dia- a book you have already read. Christine logues across races and nations. Bohemia dis- Stansell’s bohemian New York includes famil- solved during the early years of World War I, iar figures known from earlier studies of when public tolerance for sexual promiscuity, Greenwich Village but generally is peopled socialism, free speech, and antibourgeois dress and animated by a far greater diversity of changed nastily into fear and suspicion. The voices. Women activists, in particular, along- moment of true community rapidly ended. By side immigrant anarchists and Jewish writers, 1920, Greenwich Village was a tourist destina- have larger than customary roles in this wide- tion, and “bohemian,” a style to sell and con- ranging account of the country’s first moderns. sume. Emma Goldman, Mabel Dodge, Margaret Stansell’s study of free love, or what she Sanger, Margaret Anderson, Louise Bryant, calls “sexual modernism,” nicely moves the and Neith Boyce play center stage alongside book to its own kind of climax. Bringing fem- the usual leads: Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Al- inist analysis to a broad array of evidence— exander Berkman, John Reed, Randolph novels, plays, personal letters, and biogra- Bourne, and Hutchins Hapgood. Not only phies—she locates the advocacy of open sexu- women but women’s issues—suffrage, birth ality, alongside free speech and free expression, control, sexual equality, and self-determina- at the center of the bohemian revolution. Ar- tion—come to the foreground in Stansell’s guing that bohemians were “leaders in recast- study, as do vivid descriptions of new female ing sex, both inside and outside marriage,” she types: New Women, the Gibson girl, the bach- uncovers the subtle ways in which men and elor girl, female rebels, and Village feminists. women espoused the same beliefs in open rela- Stansell’s moderns are intellectuals, writers, tionships but practiced them unequally. It was playwrights, and artists, born into a Victorian not the issue of double standards as it had world they grow up detesting and determined been for Victorians, but rather the fact that to reform. The author, steeped in the Prince- women more often than men were defined by ton anthro-historical tradition of Clifford steady partnerships and found it difficult to Geertz, Robert Darnton, and Natalie Zemon integrate sexual modernism into the domestic Davis, organizes their rebellions into broad sphere where they were often raising children patterns of thought and everyday life. She sub- sired by their husbands. sumes individual actions to principles the fig- It is Stansell’s attentiveness to the difficul- ures held in common. This gives her book not ties of living a bohemian life and her grasp of only a freshness of approach but an epic gran- the radical and long-lasting social changes deur; one reads not about men and women wrought by this first generation of moderns with colorful life-styles and cocky idealisms, that makes this book a significant addition to but about a sweeping set of social changes and the literature on turn-of-the-century New reforms that killed off Victorian stuffiness and York and American culture. ushered in the modern age. Wanda M. Corn The epic begins with the formation of bo- Stanford University hemians in small towns and cities across the Stanford, California United States and their eventual migration from the periphery to the center, from, say, Davenport, Iowa, to Greenwich Village (all Romantic Science and the Experience of Self: roads in this story lead to New York City). Transatlantic Crosscurrents from William James Then, in sections called “Talking” and “Writ- to Oliver Sacks. By Martin Halliwell. (Alder- ing,” Stansell details how two kinds of activ- shot, Eng.: Ashgate, 1999. viii, 283 pp. ity—open and intensely free conversation and $78.95, ISBN 1-84014-626-5.) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. By Christine Stansell. (New York: Metropolitan, 2000. x, 420 pp. $30.00, isbn 0-8050-4847-2.)

The Journal of American History , Volume 88 (3) – Dec 1, 2001

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Published by Oxford University Press.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
DOI
10.2307/2700483
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Book Reviews 1111 American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the fevered production of books, novels, and the Creation of a New Century. By Christine reform tracts—drew bohemians into commu- Stansell. (New York: Metropolitan, 2000. x, nities of shared ideals and desires. Those com- 420 pp. $30.00, ISBN 0-8050-4847-2.) munities mixed men and women, middle and working classes, Jews and WASPs, and midwest- Do not be misled by this book’s title; this is not erners and easterners, and they opened dia- a book you have already read. Christine logues across races and nations. Bohemia dis- Stansell’s bohemian New York includes famil- solved during the early years of World War I, iar figures known from earlier studies of when public tolerance for sexual promiscuity, Greenwich Village but generally is peopled socialism, free speech, and antibourgeois dress and animated by a far greater diversity of changed nastily into fear and suspicion. The voices. Women activists, in particular, along- moment of true community rapidly ended. By side immigrant anarchists and Jewish writers, 1920, Greenwich Village was a tourist destina- have larger than customary roles in this wide- tion, and “bohemian,” a style to sell and con- ranging account of the country’s first moderns. sume. Emma Goldman, Mabel Dodge, Margaret Stansell’s study of free love, or what she Sanger, Margaret Anderson, Louise Bryant, calls “sexual modernism,” nicely moves the and Neith Boyce play center stage alongside book to its own kind of climax. Bringing fem- the usual leads: Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Al- inist analysis to a broad array of evidence— exander Berkman, John Reed, Randolph novels, plays, personal letters, and biogra- Bourne, and Hutchins Hapgood. Not only phies—she locates the advocacy of open sexu- women but women’s issues—suffrage, birth ality, alongside free speech and free expression, control, sexual equality, and self-determina- at the center of the bohemian revolution. Ar- tion—come to the foreground in Stansell’s guing that bohemians were “leaders in recast- study, as do vivid descriptions of new female ing sex, both inside and outside marriage,” she types: New Women, the Gibson girl, the bach- uncovers the subtle ways in which men and elor girl, female rebels, and Village feminists. women espoused the same beliefs in open rela- Stansell’s moderns are intellectuals, writers, tionships but practiced them unequally. It was playwrights, and artists, born into a Victorian not the issue of double standards as it had world they grow up detesting and determined been for Victorians, but rather the fact that to reform. The author, steeped in the Prince- women more often than men were defined by ton anthro-historical tradition of Clifford steady partnerships and found it difficult to Geertz, Robert Darnton, and Natalie Zemon integrate sexual modernism into the domestic Davis, organizes their rebellions into broad sphere where they were often raising children patterns of thought and everyday life. She sub- sired by their husbands. sumes individual actions to principles the fig- It is Stansell’s attentiveness to the difficul- ures held in common. This gives her book not ties of living a bohemian life and her grasp of only a freshness of approach but an epic gran- the radical and long-lasting social changes deur; one reads not about men and women wrought by this first generation of moderns with colorful life-styles and cocky idealisms, that makes this book a significant addition to but about a sweeping set of social changes and the literature on turn-of-the-century New reforms that killed off Victorian stuffiness and York and American culture. ushered in the modern age. Wanda M. Corn The epic begins with the formation of bo- Stanford University hemians in small towns and cities across the Stanford, California United States and their eventual migration from the periphery to the center, from, say, Davenport, Iowa, to Greenwich Village (all Romantic Science and the Experience of Self: roads in this story lead to New York City). Transatlantic Crosscurrents from William James Then, in sections called “Talking” and “Writ- to Oliver Sacks. By Martin Halliwell. (Alder- ing,” Stansell details how two kinds of activ- shot, Eng.: Ashgate, 1999. viii, 283 pp. ity—open and intensely free conversation and $78.95, ISBN 1-84014-626-5.)

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2001

There are no references for this article.