The term bohemian, of French origin, was first used in the English language in the nineteenth century [First occurrence in this sense in English, 1848 ("
OED").] to describe the untraditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, musicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or antiestablishment political or social viewpoints, which were often expressed through non-marital sexual relations, frugality, and/or voluntary poverty.
The term emerged in
Francein the 1800s when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class gypsy neighbourhoods. The term "Bohemian" reflects a belief, widely held in France at the time, that the Gypsies had come from Bohemia.fact|date=July 2008
Origin of term
Literary "Bohemians" were associated in the French imagination with roving Gypsies (called "bohemians" because they were falsely believed to originate from
Bohemia[Entry "bohemian" at [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bohemian Online Etymology Dictionary.] It also mentions another possibility - the term may be related to Bohemia via Bohemian religious heretics.] [Entry "bohemian" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company.] ), outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval.fact|date=July 2008 The term carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of 'Philistines'), and also carries a less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness about personal hygiene and marital orthodoxy. The Spanish gypsy in the French opera " Carmen" set in Seville, is referred to as a "bohémienne" in Meilhac and Halévy's libretto (1875).
:"The term 'Bohemian' has come to be very commonly accepted in our day as the description of a certain kind of literary gypsy, no matter in what language he speaks, or what city he inhabits .... A Bohemian is simply an artist or "
littérateur" who, consciously or unconsciously, secedes from conventionality in life and in art." ("Westminster Review", 1862 [Noted at [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bohemian Online Etymology Dictionary.] ] ) Henri Murger's collection of short stories, "Scènes de la Vie de Bohème" ("Scenes of Bohemian Life"), published in 1845, was written to glorify and legitimise Bohemia. [cite web
title=Scenes de la Vie de Boheme
first=] Ideas from Murger's collection formed the theme of
Giacomo Puccini's opera" La bohème" (1896). Puccini's work, in turn, became Jonathan Larson's source material for the musical he created, "Rent", later a feature film of the same name. Like Puccini, Larson explores a Bohemian enclave in a dense urban area, in this case, New York Cityat the end of the 20th century. The show features a song, "La Vie Bohème", which celebrates postmodernBohemian culture.
In English, "Bohemian" in this sense was initially popularized in
William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, " Vanity Fair", published in 1848, although public perceptions of the alternative life-styles supposedly led by artists were chiefly moulded by George du Maurier's highly romanticised best-selling novel of Bohemian culture "Trilby" (1894). The novel purports to outline the fortunes of three expatriate English artists, their Irish model, and two very colourful Eastern European musicians, in the artist's quarter of Paris.
Academics and theorists have been slow to diagnose Bohemianism as against the more abrasive, and politically non-conformist
Avant-gardism. The most serious study of the tendency has been "Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900–1939" (2002) by the English writer Virginia Nicholson(granddaughter of the Bloomsbury aesthete Clive Belland his wife, the English painter Vanessa Bell). Her work systematically analysed the Bohemian lifestyle led by a broad and diverse wave of artists, writers and musicians over the early- to mid-twentieth century, showing that they were indeed unified via a set of commonly-held attitudes towards money, sex and relationships, child-rearing, beauty, clothing and personal presentation, cuisine, personal cleanliness, travel and social mores. [cite book|author=Nicholson, Virginia|title=Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900–1939|publisher=Viking|year=2002|id=ISBN 0-670-88966-0]
The term has become associated with various artistic or academic communities and is used as a generalized adjective describing such people, environs, or situations: "bohemian" ("boho"—informal) is defined in "The American College Dictionary" as "a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior."
Many prominent European and American figures of the last 150 years belonged to the bohemian
counterculture, and any comprehensive 'list of bohemians' would be tediously long. Bohemianism has been approved of by some bourgeois writers such as Honoré de Balzac, but most conservative cultural critics do not condone bohemian lifestyles. New York Times columnistDavid Brooks contends that much of the cultural ethos of upper-class Americans is Bohemian-derived, coining the paradoxical term "Bourgeois Bohemians" or "Bobos." [cite book|author=Brooks, David|title=Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There|publisher=Simon and Schuster|year=2001|id=ISBN 0-684-85378-7]
"The Bombshell Manual of Style" author, Laren Stover, breaks down the Bohemian into five distinct mind-sets/styles in "
Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge". The Bohemian is "not easily classified like species of birds," writes Stover, noting that there are crossovers and hybrids. The five types are: Nouveau (bohemians with money who attempt to join traditional bohemianism with contemporary culture), Gypsy (drifters, neo-hippies, and others with nostalgia for previous, romanticized eras), Beat (also drifters, but non-materialist and art-focused), Zen ("post-beat," focus on spirituality rather than art) and Dandy (no money, but try to appear as if they have it by expensive or rare items - such as alcohol). [cite book|author=Stover, Laren|title=Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the edge|publisher=Bulfinch Press=2004|id=ISBN 0-8212-2890-0]
United States, the bohemian impulse can be seen in the 1960s hippie counterculture(which was in turn informed by the Beat generationvia writers such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac). Rainbow Gatherings may be seen as another contemporary worldwide expression of the bohemian impulse. [cite book|author=Niman, Michael I.|title=People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia|publisher=The University of Tennessee Press|year=1997|id=ISBN 0-87049-988-2]
Bohemian communities in the past
By extension, "Bohemia" meant any place where one could live and work cheaply, and behave unconventionally; a community of free souls beyond the pale of respectable society. Several cities and neighborhoods came to be associated with bohemianism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:
Montmartreand Montparnassein Paris; Chelsea, Bedford Park, Camden Town, Fitzroviaand Sohoin London; Stroudin Britain; Schwabingin Munich; Skadarlijain Belgrade; Lavapiésin Madrid; Isolaand Colonne di San Lorenzoin Milan.
In the Americas:
Greenwich Village, the East Village and Chelsea in New York City; Provincetown, Massachusetts; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Carmel-by-the-Sea and Venice Beach, California; North Beach, Haight-Ashbury, and the Mission District in San Francisco; Logan Square and Wicker Park in Chicago; the French Quarterin New Orleans; Ipanemaand Leblonin Rio de Janeiro; Kensington Marketin Toronto[Scowen, Peter. "At the intersection of immigrant and hippie", " The Globe and Mail", 10 November 2007. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071109.wflorida10/BNStory/Front/ Full text of article] ] ; Coyoacánand Condesain Mexico City.
One of the ironies of these once bohemian communities in the United States is their tendency towards rapid
gentrificationand the commercialization and decay of the bohemian culture that provided the initial attractive character of the community. [cite book|author=Mele, Christopher|title=Selling the Lower East Side|publisher=Univ of Minnesota|year=2000|id=ISBN 0-8166-3182-4] [cite book|author=Lloyd, Richard|title=Neo-Bohemia|publisher=Routledge|year=2006|id=ISBN 0-415-95182-8] [cite journal|author=Cash, Stephanie|title=“Landlords put a squeeze on Brooklyn artists.”|journal=Art in America|volume=89|issue=3|pages=39–40]
Subculture;Related cultures or movements
*citebook|author=Easton, Malcolm|title=Artists and Writers in Paris. The Bohemian Idea, 1803–1867|location=London|publisher=Arnold|year=1964|edition=ASIN B0016A7CJA
*citebook|author=Graña, César|title=Bohemian versus Bourgeois: French Society and the French Man of Letters in the Nineteenth Century|location=New York|publisher=Basic Books|year=1964|isbn=0465007368
*citebook|author=Stansell, Christine|title=American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century|publisher=Henry Holt & Company|year=2000|isbn=0805048472
*citebook|author=Wilson, Elizabeth|title=Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts|publisher=Tauris Parke Paperbacks|year=2002|isbn=1860647820
* [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/boheme/evolution.html Bohemianism and Counter-Culture]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.