L'Indian pourrait jusqu'a un certain point y reussir, mais il dedaigne de le tenter" De la democratie en Amerique. More than thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced, de Tocqueville wrote of the anti-Black racism found in the so-called abolitionist states—a racism more intense and bitter than any to found in the slave-owning Southern states—and of the nascent inner city ghettoes, which he believed to be already more dangerous than the meanest urban environment in continental Europe.
Despite his unavoidable Eurocentric bias, de Tocqueville's gifts of observation were nothing short of extraordinary. In conjunction with his almost untrammelled admiration for the governmental apparatus of American democracy, this republican aristocrat was totally appalled by the enforced conformity which the myth of universal freedom engendered: "Je ne connais pas de pays ou il regne en general moins d'independance et de veritable liberte de discussion qu'en Amerique" De la democratie en Amerique, Tome I - In his eyes, the spirit of had already ossified into a rigid catechism which no-longer revolutionary citizens could, like well-trained parrots, only repeat by rote.
This perhaps explains why " In the same vein, de Tocqueville noted with amusement, Americans would not gladly suffer the slightest word of criticism about their country to 23 emerge from even a well-intentioned foreigner's lips.
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American cultural insularity, he felt, was at least equal to the nation's geographical isolation. A number of the French traveller's ideas would assume their full importance only after the passage of a century or more. En Amerique, c'est un ennemi du genre humain, et il a contre lui l'humanite tout entiere" fDe la democratie en Amerique. The history of the U. TV "cop show," both fictional and reality-based, amply bears out this statement.
Still, despite his atypical willingness to see others as others saw themselves what other privileged Frenchman was as unreservedly appreciative of the American myth of the self-made man? When he wrote, for instance, "J'aimerais mieux qu'on herissat la langue de mots chinois, tartares ou hurons, que de rendre incertain des mots frangais," he was speaking from the pulpit of linguistic purity epitomized by the Academie Frangaise. At bottom open-minded, de Tocqueville's cultural inheritance did not allow him to feel fully at ease in a semi-barbaric land that he otherwise very much admired: " If America was the hope of the future, it was 24 also a threat to the glories of the past; as a land of universal liberty, it was paradoxically a threat to the higher form of individualism that Europe's collapsing class system had once bestowed on its appointed thinkers and artists.
That the United States could fill this cultural void with the same dexterity with which it expanded the gains of the industrial revolution was something the author obviously doubted. By the late s, at least half of French pre-conceptions about America had already been formed. In his private journals Victor Hugo wrote, "L'Americain republicain est libre, vend, achete, revend et marchande et brocante des vieillards, des femmes, des vierges, et des enfants. II punit de prison qui apprend. II est marchand d'esclaves et citoyen.
II est democrate et negrier" Choses vues Tome 11 Contemporary U. American women were in some ways freer than their continental counterparts, but also colder and more sexually inhibited. American democratic theory seemed as much a menace to be feared as it did a model to be followed by well-educated French deputies. For the most part, this image would remain fixed until shortly after the First World War.
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In Extreme Occident, a history of French literary attitudes towards the United States, Franco-American scholar Jean Philippe Mathy wrote, "The main assumption of this study is that many French intellectuals' perceptions of America, from Tocqueville to Beauvoir, are rooted in a humanistic and aristocratic ethos derived from the models of intellectual excellence and critical practice born in the Renaissance and refined in the age of French classicism" Mathy 7.
One finds this point of view expressed in its most extreme form in the following decription of Chactas, the "good" Indian hero of Atala, a classical Frenchman in all but name. A national as well as a religious chauvinist, for Chateaubriand the qualities of culture and human worth were clearly determined by each individual's proximity to the apogee of human civilization, an apex which was unequivocally, univocally French. His position could not be further removed from the more tolerant prejudices of cultural relativism.
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Nevertheless, it is probably fair to claim that, at least in a watered-down version, his attitudes remained in place until the beginning of the twentieth century. During this literary interregnum, the two French writers who most radically expanded Gallic perceptions of the U. According to one American critic, the author of Les Fleurs du mal added the word "americaniser" to the French lexicon in Mathy Since Baudelaire was such a pivotal figure in the evolution of the crime story, his role as a cultural cross-pollinator can more fruitfully be discussed in Chapter Two than it can here.
Jules Verne's contributions, on the other hand, deserve to be considered post-haste. What most strikes contemporary readers about the proto-science fiction stories that Verne situated in the United States is their alternately banal and prophetic realism. Les Forceurs de blocus, for instance, a work largely unknown in the English-speaking world, describes the efforts of a hard-headed Scottish capitalist to steer a high speed steamship 17 knots-per-hour past the Union gunboats blockading Charleston harbour. The ironically named Playfairs have nothing but scorn for abolitionists, dismissing them as " With their eyes set on the main prize of profits, the Playfairs are notably reluctant to admit " Even today, it is hard to find fictional writings that discuss the U.
Civil War in less romantic, more pragmatic terms. The War Between the States is also one of the narrative engines propelling one of Verne's more famous speculative fictions, De la Terre a la Lune.
Even more than Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, this novel is replete with Verne's eerie powers of pre-cognition. The decision to send a vessel to the moon is determined by a group of retired Civil War artillerymen and industrialists, the nineteenth century forebears of what Dwight D.
Eisenhower was to dub "the military-industrial complex," the matrix out of which NASA emerged. That Americans should be the first to invent space travel seemed perfectly logical to Verne: "Les Yankees, ces premiers mecaniciens du monde, sont ingenieurs, comme les Italiens sont musiciens et les Allemands metaphysciens--de naissance" De la Terre a la Lune One of the more formidable of these ex-Union Army gunners is " In those passages, the author makes enormous leaps of historical fabulation.
At a time when the steam-driven power of England's industrial revolution still gave the United Kingdom pride of place as the workship of the world, Jules Verne was already passing on the world-controlling economic torch to the still-wet-behind-the-ears United States. What's more, he attributed that 28 triumph to America's inheritance of the most aggressive, puritan streak in British culture, the Round Head ferocity that led to the rise of Cromwell and the fall of the Stuarts.
Here, in embryo, we see the origins of the modern French usage of the phrase "les anglo-saxonnes" a description that implicitly fuses England and the United States into one seamless socio-historical entity, a body politic implicitly hostile to the interests of France, and one which is seemingly entirely detached from Canada, Australia, and the many other small nations comprising anglophonia.
In this phrase we see admiration and realism locked in an eternal battle with paranoia, fear and hate. Despite this theoretical projection, however, Verne's account reflects immense familiarity with the quotidian realities of contemporary American life. The trip to the moon is facilitated by the calculations of the observatory in Cambridge, Massachussetts, "Cette ville ou fut fondee la premiere Universite des Etats-Unis, est justement celebre par son bureau astronomique" De la Terre a la Lune Hans Pfaal, Edgar Allan Poe's fictional visitor to the Moon, is wittily treated as an historical personage much of this book was conceived as satire.
Most presciently of all, Verne describes the struggle between the states of Florida and Texas for the honour of being the lunar-directed launch site.
Less than a hundred years later, when Apollo IX did indeed speed to the Moon, the rocket was of course fired from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while its pilots listened to commands from Mission Control in Houston, Texas! What's more, the journey was completed in only slightly less time than the 11 days stipulated by Verne.
The American passages in Le tour du monde en 80 jours might have been less imbued with prophecy, but they were no less 29 keen on logistical accuracy: "New York et San Francisco sont done presentement reunis par un ruban de metal non interrompu qui ne mesure pas moins de trois mille sept cent quarante-vingt-six milles" Le Tour du monde en 80 jours Within Verne's broad, "trunklike" descriptions lurk many lesser, "rootlike" details: "Ce wagon etait un 'sleeping car', qui, en quelques minutes, fut transforme en dortoir" Le Tour du monde en 80 jours What Phileas Fogg and his fellow passengers see from moving train windows is a country in the process of creating itself.
They " Only when describing encounters with Mormons and skirmishes with Sioux does Verne depart from the generally realistic tone of his text. This unique mixture— fantastic plot coupled to extremely plausible detail—would lay the groundwork for the infant genre of science fiction, a genre that the French would shortly abandon, a popular form that would subsequently be perfected by les anglo-saxonnes in general and les Americains in particular.
It is one of the abiding ironies of Franco-American relations that certain Gallic cultural innovations are subsequently regarded as quintessentially American—especially by the French. Where would the so-called Hollywood musical be, for instance, if not for the early sound films of Rene Clair?
For a variety of reasons, not all of them modest high culture est fait chez nous; popular culture est importe d'outre-mer , this situation appeals to Parisian intellectuals. In a strange sort of way, it draws another seductive veil over cultivated French eyes whenever they focus on the alternately brash and admirable United States. On a per capita basis, the French Army suffered heavier casualties than any other major participant in that sanguinary conflict. What's more, most of the battles were fought on French soil, a circumstance which resulted in as much damage to the nation's environment and physical plant as it did to its reserves of able-bodied cannon fodder.
The factor that eventually tilted the balance in favour of the Allied Cause was the commitment of ever greater numbers of American troops to the trenches following Washington's declaration of war in While America's actual military role in the defeat of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires was relatively minor, its logistical contribution proved to be decisive. Thus, America emerged from the Great War with the prestige of a major military power, the certainty that it had replaced Great Britain as the workshop of the world, and a foreign policy that had finally emerged from the carapace of isolation.
These advantages had been won at very little cost to themselves. American casualties were relatively minor, and its landscape was completely undamaged. With the possible exception of Canada and the other dominions, the United States was the only nation to emerge from the First World War in better shape than it went in. Inevitably, this historical turn-around produced conflicting emotions in France. For the first time, Americans in Paris were counted not by the hundred, but by the hundred thousand.
Gone were the days when the few brash New Worlders lucky enough to worm their way into the pages of French literature generally fell into the category of rich potential marriage partners, such as the "richissime Americain" to 3 1 whom Albertine was briefly betrothed in a suppressed passage of A la recherche du temps perdu Albertine disparue In the immediate post-war period, following demobilization, American writers and artists congregated in the City of Light because the views were pretty, the costs were low, sex was easy and Prohibition non-existent.
Around the same time, American movies started to inundate French screens. Since the same chemicals that went into the manufacture of celluloid were also used in the production of high explosives, French cinema lost its commercial edge to Hollywood during the Great War, an advantage. Less grudgingly, the French also began to listen to American popular music, particularly jazz. Black U. In a French context, the cult of negritude served a double purpose.
France's acceptance of Black American artists and of Antillean and African writers such as Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor was a way of affirming moral superiority over the New World giant that so aggressively challenged France's post claim to be acknowledged as the homeland of secular freedom. How could America truly be the land of liberty if that liberty only extended to whites? At the same time, it allowed French intellectuals to put the harsher realities of the nation's "off-stage" colonial practice on the back burner.
Only in very recent years have Gallic authors belatedly acknowledged the skin colour of most Parisian street sweepers.
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To admit that racisme ordinaire was as prevalent in Marseille as it was in Memphis was to subtly undermine 32 France's claim to being regarded as the only true, the only legitimate, the only universal republic. Thanks to these circumstances, French reaction to American advances on all fronts could not help but be mixed.
Gallic gratitude for U. The thought that la Belle France might now owe more to General Pershing and his "doughboys" than American patriots once did to the eighteenth-century assistance of Admiral de Suffren's warships and Lafayette's volunteers was totally unacceptable to the national amour propre.
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Love of American popular culture could not entirely disguise the fact that its progress was often made at French culture's expense. Even worse, expatriate American authors in love with Paris were singularly indifferent to Parisians, eschewing personal contact even when they knew the local language well. British jounalist Tony Allan made much of this fact in his nostalgic history, The Glamour Years: Paris, - , quoting art critic Clive Bell to the effect that "Some of [these expatriates] had French mistresses—kept mistresses; but very few of them had French friends" Allan 9.
A coming-of-age memoir, this brief narrative describes the author's journey across America as he left the battlefields of World War One to participate in the Allied Powers' ill-fated attempt to overthrow the newly-founded Bolshevik regime in Kessel and his comrades were cheered by American crowds as their train puffed its way across the U.
For once the reader is not faced with "doughboys" being 33 feted by adoring Frenchmen, but by "poilus" being hailed by grateful groups of Yanks. Being young and military, Kessel's communication skills were obviously not aided by the presence of large numbers of bilingual academics, the balm bestowed on most later French writers of substance. Although he had by this time forgotten most of his high school English, his linguistic facility was still considerably greater than that of his fellow volunteers: "II me restait bien peu de ces notions lorsque je debarquai en Amerique.
Mais je crois que j ' en savais encore plus done de la majorite de mes camarades. Je devais done, bon gre mal gre, leur servir d'interprete" Kessel Although Kessel was much cheered by the reception he received from the women of America, the omnipresence of puritan strictures continuously rankled: "La prohibition, si elle n'etait pas encore en vigeur en Amerique, regnait impitoyablement ces batiments de guerre.
On nous offrait du cafe au lait comme boisson de table" Kessel Later, in San Francisco, he would frustratedly discover that "On sait qu'il est interdit par la loi Like most period French tourists, the author was impressed by everything from skyscrapers to New Year's Eve parties, by the things that were quintessentially non-French.