The San Francisco Renaissance

Poetics and Community at Mid-Century

The San Francisco Renaissance

Though the term "San Francisco Renaissance" is usually associated with the Beat movement, it was in reality a collage of different communities, often at odds with one another, whose agendas were social and political as much as aesthetic. These subcommunities provided important contexts for subsequent counterculture developments such as gay liberation, feminism, and the New Left long before those movements attracted widespread public attention. In his study of these various impulses Michael Davidson devotes chapters to central figures such as Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, William Everson, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Spicer. He also examines the important but largely neglected context of women writers in a period dominated by misogynistic views. His final chapter brings things up to date by looking at developments in the Bay Area since the death of Jack Spicer.


"Davidson's The San Francisco Renaissance is as close to a 'definitive' study as I can imagine." Richard Silberg, Poetry Flash

"Davidson offers an excellently conceived synthesis of literary criticism and cultural history and analysis." Choice

"Lucid, nuanced, informed, this is a model literary history of the literary and social formation of interlocking 'bohemias' (Rexroth circle of the 1940s, the Beats, Spicer circle, Snyderian neo-primitives, the Duncan group) as equally at ease with interpretive and theoretical debate as with the choice and framing of telling incident, example, analysis." Rachel Blau duPlessis, Sulfur

"Michael Davidson's The San Francisco Renaissance illuminates and traces this movement by identifying its major writers, who were intent on severing the shackles that they believed were encumbering postwar America...Davidson is impeccably thorough in his presentation...." John Aeillo, San Franciso Examiner

"Michael Davidson's book, The San Francisco Renaissance, is long overdue." Phil Woods, The Bloomsbury Review

"Davidson is a superior critic well acquainted with the scene and the authors. His focus on community helps to make sense of the diverse groups in close interaction with one another in that time and place without sacrificing anything in the sharpness and clarity of his discussion of individual authors....The scope is wider than the literary movements discussed and superior to books that apply a single theory to heterogeneous texts. Davidson employs a number of current theories, choosing that approach which best illuminates the text at hand yet maintains a clear unity among the various strands of his subject. The resulting book is an important work for all readers concerned with contemporary literature and literary theory." George F. Wedge, American Studies