Visions of America From Abroad
America is the great, ongoing experiment of modernity, a nation thoroughly structured by all that is considered new in the Western world: liberal democracy, science, technology, industry and capitalism. The colonization of America by Europe led to our nation's status as a laboratory for political, social, and artistic theories which otherwise may never have been attempted. More and more nations are looking at the U.S. with ambivalence. As recent history has shown, America is not just an European obsession. U.S. ties to Europe have weakened in the last few decades, and the U.S. now finds itself in a more multilateral geopolitical environment. The Sept. 11 attacks were a brutal awakening for many Americans to the hostility that exists in parts of the world, not only against U.S. foreign policy but against the identity of the American people. Is such hostility related to the European ambivalence toward America, or is it a new phenomenon, with separate historical and intellectual roots? This course will be conducted as a seminar. Each week, we will examine texts and films that center on a particular theme of European-American intellectual relations, the emerging complicated relationship between Islam and America, and the longstanding tension with Latin America. Among the texts of European writers included in the seminar are works by Alexis de Tocqueville, Jean Baudrillard, Simone de Beauvoir, and Bernard-Henri Lévy. The texts of Middle Eastern writers include works by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Sayyid Qutb; among the Latin American authors are Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. We also will view and discuss several films by directors such as Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismäki, Jean-Luc Godard and Charlie Chaplin. This course can count toward the major in French (modern languages or area studies) under certain conditions to be arranged with Professor Guiney. No prerequisite.