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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fantasy America : the United States as seen through French and Italian eyes Harris, Mark


For the past two decades, scholars have been reassessing the ways in which Western writers and intellectuals have traditionally misrepresented the non-white world for their own ideological purposes. Orientalism, Edward Said's ground-breaking study of the ways in which Europeans projected their own social problems onto the nations of the Near East in an attempt to take their minds off. the same phenomena as they occurred closer to home, was largely responsible for this shift in emphasis. Fantasy America: The United States as Seen Through French and Italian Eyes is an exploration of a parallel occurrence that could easily be dubbed "Occidentalism." More specifically, it is a study of the ways in which French and Italian writers and filmmakers have sought to situate the New World within an Old World context. "Among the (More Advanced) Barbarians" (a.k.a. Chapter One) examines the continuities and discontinuities of French travel writing in America from the days of the Jesuits to the heyday of the existentialists. Certain motifs and idees fixes—the uniqueness of American racism; the "magic" of New York—are first identified and then examined. "A Meeting of the Mafias" (Chapter Two) is more cosmopolitan in scope, tracing the ways in which French, American, and Italian crime fiction have historically influenced each other, as well as the relationship of the policier to differing notions of the nation-state. "The Ruins of Rome" (Chapter Three) demonstrates how Italian intellectuals have looked to the United States for new. World Solutions to Old World problems. This chapter encompasses two major sub-themes: the positive possibilities for Italy of "Fordismo" (the American industrial model) and American literature (which was believed to promote political, as well as cultural, liberty). "Lurching Towards the Millennium" picks up the threads of the first three chapters and places them in the contemporary context of globalization, a process which threatens to replace the hegemony of the nation state with the omnipresence of corporate power. The cultural model of Quebec is introduced at this point as a New World/Old World paradigm that embodies the chimerical contradictions of a globe on the brink of a new millennium.

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