Regards français sur l'Amerique: de l'entre-deux-guerres a la Guerre froide
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Regards français sur l'Amérique : de l'Entre-deux-guerres à la Guerre froide (French Perceptions of America: From the Roaring Twenties to the Cold War) examines the reactions of French intellectuals to various aspects of American culture and politics. Based principally on the writings of contributors to Les Temps modernes, a review founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in 1945, this work will examine in great detail the aforementioned co-founders' impressions of the United States as well as the observations of many of Les Temps modernes' contributing writers. Moreover, this dissertation will compare and contrast the views espoused by the Les Temps modernes group with the depictions of the United States exhibited by French thinkers such as André Siegfried, Georges Duhamel, Vladimir Pozner, Frantz Fanon and Bernard-Henri Lévy. This work analyzes these writers' pronouncements on American cultural and political phenomena, including Puritanism, literature, music, race relations, and anticommunism.
In light of the above, this dissertation may be considered a study in transcultural perception and the epistemological pitfalls said perception poses. In this regard, people generally judge foreign cultures through the prism of preconceived notions derived in large part from their native culture. This prism, in fact, is a metaphor for the "barriers of otherness" that come into play whenever the act of transcultural perception takes place. This study will examine the effects of these barriers of otherness on the French observers' appreciation of the United States by placing their findings somewhere along a sliding scale ranging from the most objective to the most subjective. The articles by Philippe Soupault and Claude Roy are examples of a relatively objective appraisal of the checks and balances inherent in the way the so-called puritanical moral code is maintained in American society (Chapter 1). At the other end of the scale is the Temps modernes group's totally subjective conjecture on the Rosenberg affair, sparked in large part by the group's Communist sympathies and its stance against the American government (Chapter 5). This study will conclude with a discussion on the varying degrees of certitude associated with various modes of transcultural perception.