“Against an epoch”: Boston moderns, 1880–1905

“Against an epoch”: Boston moderns, 1880–1905


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Employing Boston as the primary site of cultural investigation, this dissertation expands the narrative of American Modernism with a discussion of the centrality of the city of Boston in understanding the development of Modernism in America. The project is divided into two sections: Bohemia, and Decadence and Retreat, as a way to describe the progression and decline of Boston's modern moment throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The lives of three eminent Boston artists: photographer F. Holland Day, writer Louise Imogen Guiney and architect Ralph Adams Cram and their circle(s) of association are the primary focus of this study. Their cultural productions and simultaneous participation in burgeoning social, religious and aesthetic movements, specifically Anglo-Catholicism, Decadence, Pictorialism, The Arts and Crafts Movement and Socialism, reveal a complex network of association in fin-de-siecle Boston. This dissertation emphasizes the centrality of friendship and collaboration in the cultural production of these Bostonians and their associates, and differentiates this particular Boston Modernism from the later “High Modernism” of New York City. The individuals at the heart of this dissertation continually attempted to balance a desire for a simpler life focused around the appreciation of the beautiful and progressive social reform within the confines of an increasingly fast-paced world. This dissertation engages and interprets cultural data—photographs, literature and buildings, as visual representations of Boston's alternative modernism.

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Boston College


Boston, Massachusetts

“Against an epoch”: Boston moderns, 1880–1905

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