Intellectual History of Salons
September 18, 2023 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in nonfiction sources on salons, or learning societies or, whatever. Basically anything learning-focused that isn't the sorts of institutions we hear about a lot (as in not universities or schools). Bonus points if the books are about marginalized people organizing these things.
posted by azalea_chant to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Sometimes I think we live in the ashes of the 19th century.
posted by foursentences at 9:05 PM on September 18, 2023

Maybe the Ascend Project counts for your purposes?
posted by brainwane at 12:57 AM on September 19, 2023

If you have access, there are several academic journal articles on the history of the Workers' Educational Association. There is also this book, which I have read, but years ago so can't remember a huge amount about it. And in looking for the review, I found this article on the history of the WEA in New Zealand.
posted by paduasoy at 1:22 AM on September 19, 2023

Pedagogy of the Oppressed — people approach it as a theory text but it’s also mostly a how-to guide for Freire’s very specific moment in the 1960s Americas, if I remember correctly.
posted by lokta at 2:56 AM on September 19, 2023

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle?

Coffee houses and other watering holes have given rise to all sorts of ideas up to and including the famous literary icons of Paris and New York in the 20th century.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:16 AM on September 19, 2023

A little more social-activist than strictly educational, the Society for Ethical Culture is still active in New York City, with a long history of involvement with civil rights, and was founded by a Jew who had been intended for the rabbinate.
posted by pollytropos at 6:39 AM on September 19, 2023

Not sure if this is what you are looking for but your question brings to mind the historical period of Red Vienna, and while the housing and architectural impact is more widely known, there was also an effort to educate the working class organised by the city's social government.

Educational Reform in Red Vienna

A book describing and reviewing the impact of the policies of Red Vienna is Helmut Grubers "Red Vienna. Experiment in working class culture. 1919-1934. You can Download a PDF of His book at

And this is an article on Volkshochschulen (adult education Centers) established in the late 19th century and still operating today.

And then there were the bourgeois Vienna Salons, hosted by members of the establishment, often well- educated woman.
posted by 15L06 at 6:52 AM on September 19, 2023

I'm sorry, I misread the question and didn't notice you were looking for writing about salons, societies, etc. There's a history of ethical societies available online, which I haven't read, and a edition of a nineteenth-century book about the Fabian Society.
posted by pollytropos at 6:54 AM on September 19, 2023

I think you would very much enjoy reading Jonathan Rose's The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes: "a landmark intellectual history of Britain’s working classes from the preindustrial era to the twentieth century. Drawing on workers’ memoirs, social surveys, library registers, and more, Jonathan Rose uncovers which books people read, how they educated themselves, and what they knew."

It's really good!
posted by redfoxtail at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

this book accompanied the exhibit at the Jewish museum in NYC 18 years ago
posted by brujita at 7:22 AM on September 19, 2023

Maybe not at all what you're looking for, but there's this guy I follow on twitter who's very into creating a 'global salon culture', and he's posted a lot of threads about past scenes and how they came about. (He's also a lot of other places if you're done w/ twitter).
posted by Bron at 8:26 AM on September 19, 2023

Response by poster: Does anyone have nonfiction resources on coffee houses? Someone brought them up but without a link/source. I'm interested in concepts, but also places I can dig for more info.
posted by azalea_chant at 11:19 AM on September 19, 2023

The Coffee-House: A Cultural History by Markman Ellis, & Ellis's Coffee-House Library STC

Shaping the Public Sphere: English Coffeehouses and French Salons and the Age of the Enlightenment by Bonnie Calhoun

Natalie Clifford Barney (1867-1972), an American, lesbian writer, hosted a literary salon in her Paris home for 60 years; "The range of sexualities welcomed at the salon was also uncommon in Paris, and Barney's openness with her own sexuality made her salon comfortable to homosexual or bisexual attendees;" scroll down her Wikipedia entry for more articles and books
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:06 PM on September 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

I was thinking about the Algonquin Hotel and stumbled across this list of NYC literary oases.

Gertrude Stein seemingly drew a crowd about everywhere, her art salon in Paris may have been the most notable. Wikipedia has the story.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:20 AM on September 20, 2023

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