Date of Degree

2-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor(s)

Joshua Freeman

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | United States History

Keywords

Avant-Garde Film, Bohemia, Greenwich Village, Modernism, Queer

Abstract

In Greenwich Village, a final generation of bohemians contested the rise and trajectory of gay liberation. During the 1930s, this generation blended modernist poetry and sexuality to develop a new manifestation of bohemia. In the postwar period, they transformed modern poetry into the new artistic medium of film that was critical to shaping postwar American art and culture. This wave of bohemia was built on certain modernist principles, including a universalist understanding of sexuality and identity that was different from, and incompatible with, the growth of identity politics in the 1960s. This dissertation argues that this was a last gasp of modernist bohemian ideology that fought against identity politics and the intellectual shift towards postmodernism, but lost and died out.

This study creates a social and cultural map of this Atlantic bohemia in the decades prior to its clash with identity politics. At its center is the collaborative friendship of critical film theorist Parker Tyler and multi-media artist Charles Henri Ford. Tyler and Ford moved within artistic circles that included poets, painters, composers, avant-garde filmmakers, and writers, and they were tangential to the Surrealists, the Beats, the New American Cinema, and Andy Warhol's Factory. While this world was anchored in Greenwich Village, Ford, Tyler, and their friends collaborated with other groups around the city, including African-American artists in Harlem, Upper East Side benefactors, and the Latino community in the Lower East side. They also built an Atlantic network to other bohemians within the United States and as they traveled to other places and communities throughout Europe, Latin America, and North Africa. They were able to use these connections to further their art and defend their world against social and cultural changes. Scholarship has often sought to trace Postmodernism from the 1970s back in the Modernist past. This project intervenes in that discourse by showing that bohemians were committed to Modernism into the 1970s and contested that intellectual shift. Their bohemian conception of identity and sexuality and the group's resistance to gay liberation also challenge the prevailing gay history narrative that focuses on a politicized gay identity in the post-Stonewall era.

 
 

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