Irresponsibly Engage: Boris Vian and Uses of American Culture in France, 1940-1959

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2005-05-03

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During the postwar and early Cold War periods, author and jazz critic Boris Vian (1920-1959) developed his own approach to the increased presence of American culture in France. Instead of dismissing America outright, he learned to choose his battles carefully. Vian never considered America to be a paragon for emulation, and he used both jazz and detective novels as a way to criticize American conformity and especially racism. This thesis focuses not only on how Vian disconnected a political critique of America from a cultural critique of America, but also on the ways that his appreciation of American cultural artistry informed his continued disdain for other aspects of American politics and society. Vian used American jazz and pulp fiction to understand how black American culture could be used as a model of "good" American culture that could be mobilized against "bad" American culture.

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