Renaissance in Charleston

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

Title Details

Pages: 260

Illustrations: 26 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 08/11/2003

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2518-7

List Price: $46.95

Renaissance in Charleston

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

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Contributors

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.

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 <i>South Carolina: A History</i.

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.


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

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

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)

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

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

Barbara Bellows

Curtis Worthington

Gene Waddell

James Sears

Judith James

Louise Anderson Allen

Martha Severens

Stephanie E. Yuhl

Susan V. Donaldson

About the Author/Editor

Harlan Greene (Editor)
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.

James M. Hutchisson (Editor)
JAMES M. HUTCHISSON is a professor of English at the Citadel. His books include DuBose Heyward: A Charleston Gentleman and the World of Porgy and Bess and The Rise of Sinclair Lewis, 1920-1930.