Rooted Cosmopolitans: The Cultural Creativity of the Second Generation

Fred Rosenbaum

in Cosmopolitans

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259133
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945029 | DOI:
Rooted Cosmopolitans: The Cultural Creativity of the Second Generation

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Even after the Gold Rush had become a distant memory, the ethnic diversity, physical beauty, and venturesome spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area continued to set it apart. In the late nineteenth century an almost Mediterranean ethos prevailed. Theaters, restaurants, and bars were more numerous per capita than they were back East—and morals looser. In converted lofts around Montgomery Street, a bohemian subculture took root, not merely tolerated, but in some ways imitated throughout the city. Even nearby Chinatown was no longer as forbidding as it had been a generation earlier. The arts flourished as young people in particular sought to express the exuberance they felt. Jews were highly visible as patrons of the arts and impresarios, as consumers of culture and critics. Jewish cultural creativity was often rooted in revolt against the older generation's Victorian mores. Once unleashed from the constraints of bourgeois convention, many of the homegrown artists displayed quirky and irreverent behavior. Gertrude Stein, who made a cult out of non-conformity, is the best known.

Keywords: Jews; San Francisco; cultural creativity; Gertrude Stein; theaters; subculture; arts; ethnic diversity; Chinatown

Chapter.  13776 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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