Renaissance in Charleston: Art and Life in the Carolina Low Country, 1900-1940

Overview

Beginning in 1920 and continuing through World War II, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, underwent an unprecedented cultural revival. The city's literary, artistic, and institutional flowering both anticipated and helped precipitate similar movements that collectively came to be known as the Southern Renaissance. This volume reveals the richness and complexity of the Charleston Renaissance and its place among wider trends and events of the day.

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Overview

Beginning in 1920 and continuing through World War II, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, underwent an unprecedented cultural revival. The city's literary, artistic, and institutional flowering both anticipated and helped precipitate similar movements that collectively came to be known as the Southern Renaissance. This volume reveals the richness and complexity of the Charleston Renaissance and its place among wider trends and events of the day.

Presenting a long overdue assessment of this literary and artistic movement, Renaissance in Charleston re-creates the historical, social, economic, and political contexts through which its central participants moved. Discussed are such figures as John Bennett, Josephine Pinckney, Beatrice Ravenel, DuBose Heyward, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Alfred Hutty, Julia Peterkin, Laura Bragg, and Edwin A. Harleston.

The essays tell how these and other individuals faced the tensions and contradictions of their time and place. While some traced their lineage back to the city's first families, others were relative newcomers. Some broke new ground racially and sexually as well as artistically; others perpetuated the myths of the Old South. Some were censured at home but praised in New York, London, and Paris. The essays also underscore the significance and growth of such cultural institutions as the Poetry Society of South Carolina, the Charleston Museum, and the Gibbes Art Gallery.

A generation after the passing of most artists and writers involved in the Charleston Renaissance, a new generation of scholars has finally come to terms with its legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of the Charleston Renaissance. These essays illuminate a long-neglected and often misunderstood chapter in American and southern cultural history. Renaissance in Charleston captures the complex spirit of the women and men whose creative talents made Charleston between world wars such an intriguing city."—Walter B. Edgar, author of South Carolina: A History

"A fascinating book, important to our understanding of the literature and culture of the American South, well researched and filled with new and sometimes startling material. Until I read it I didn't realize how much I didn't know about what was going on in Charleston back then."—Louis D. Rubin Jr., author of My Father's People: A Family of Southern Jews

"Both informative and fascinating, these essays bring to light this little-discussed, glorious literary and artistic movement."—Sandlapper

"In the end, Renaissance in Charleston makes a very convincing case that the history of Southern letters in the twentieth century needs to be rewritten and neglected Charleston writers deserve an attentive, and perhaps cocktail-sipping, reading."—Mobile Register

"For anyone who enjoys literary history, Charleston history, or American history, Renaissance in Charleston will bring the Charleston Renaissance back to life. Editors Hutchisson and Greene have created an essay ensemble that paints a vivid picture of Charleston's cultural revolution"—Charleston City Paper

"This collection shows just how deep and rich the Charleston Renaissance was; the social, political and artistic struggles of its innovators; and its influence."—Creative Loafing (Charlotte, NC)

"Solid, well-researched, and well-written essays. . . . Renaissance in Charleston captures much of the cultural joie de vivre present in the 1920s and early 1930s, before the national economic downturn, and adds much to our body of knowledge on the literature and culture of the American South."—Journal of Southern History

"Insightful without becoming overbearing this work walks the fine line between scholarly and popular literature. Each essay builds upon each other without too much repetition, and the arguments are convincing. This work is recommended for anyone interested in the interrelationship of art, culture, race, and gender in the South and North during the early 20th century."—Candy Hudziak, Southern Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820325187
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Pages: 260
  • Sales rank: 989,653
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James M. Hutchisson is a professor of English at The Citadel. His books include DuBose Heyward and The Rise of Sinclair Lewis, 1920-1930. Harlan Greene has served as assistant director of the South Carolina Historical Society and director of the North Carolina Preservation Consortium. Now with the Charleston Public Library, he is the author of Mr. Skylark (Georgia) and the novels Why We Never Danced the Charleston and What the Dead Remember.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Introduction: The Charleston Renaissance Considered 1
The Lowcountry Lady and the Over-the-Mountain Man: Josephine Pinckney, Donald Davidson, and the Burden of Southern Literature 19
To Sell the City of Charleston: The Visual Arts and the Charleston Renaissance 35
"Mr. Bennett's Amiable Desire": The Poetry Society of South Carolina and the Charleston Renaissance 57
Beatrice Ravenel: Avant-Garde Poet of the Charleston Renaissance 76
Professional Authorship in the Charleston Renaissance: The Career of DuBose Heyward 96
The Only Volume in the Octagon Library: The Early Architecture of Charleston 115
The Legend Is Truer Than the Fact: The Politics of Representation in the Career of Elizabeth O'Neill Verner 126
Gullah-Inflected Modernism: Julia Peterkin's Scarlet Black Madonna 142
Laura Bragg and Her "Bright Young Things": Fostering Change and Social Reform at the Charleston Museum 155
Charleston's Racial Politics of Historic Preservation: The Case of Edwin A. Harleston 176
App.: A Who's Who of the Charleston Renaissance 199
Notes 211
Selected Bibliography 243
Contributors 245
Index 247
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