Extreme-Occident: French Intellectuals and America

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9780226510644: Extreme-Occident: French Intellectuals and America

What does "America" mean to French intellectuals? Is it a postmodern ideal situated beyond history and metaphysics? A source of spiritual decadence that threatens the European tradition? Or is it "Extrême-Occident," the Far
Western site that gives historical reality to the utopias of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment?

Jean-Philippe Mathy offers the first systematic examination of French texts that address the question of America. He shows how prominent French intellectuals have represented America as myth and metaphor, covering the entire ideological spectrum from Maurras to Duhamel, and from Sartre to Aron. The texts themselves range from novels and poems to travel narratives and philosophical essays by Claudel, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Kristeva, and many others.

Mathy deftly situates these discourses on America against the background of French intellectual and political history since 1789. The judgments on American culture that originate in France, he contends, are also statements about France itself. Widespread condemnation of American
materialism and pragmatism cuts across deep ideological and political divides in France, primarily because French intellectuals still operate within a framework of critical and aesthetic models born in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and elaborated in the age of French classicism.

Mathy engages issues central to interpreting the American experience, such as the current controversies over multiculturalism and Eurocentrism. Although Mathy deals mainly with French authors, he does not limit himself to them. Rather, he uses a comparative, cross-cultural approach that also takes in accounts of America by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Junger, Gramsci, and other Europeans, as well as American self-interpretations from Emerson and Dewey to Cornel West and Christopher Lasch.

Because debates on American modernity have played a crucial intellectual role in France, Extrême-Occident is a major contribution to modern French cultural
history. It will be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the main currents of twentieth-century French thought.

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About the Author:

Jean-Philippe Mathy is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From Library Journal:

This account of perceptions of America by French intellectuals from the 1920s to the postmodern period shows writers as diverse as Duhamel, Celine, and Sartre agreeing to regard modern America with blanket and disdainful disapproval. Some of the reasons they give include its conformity, materialism, standards of taste, egalitarianism, Cold War policies, and other differences from France. Poets like Perse and postmodernists like Baudrillard have been more favorable, the latter giving a utopian interpretation to the American experience. Mathy (French, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) proceeds by period rather than theme at the cost of some tedious repetition. Less concern with "texts," quoted and paraphrased to excess, and more analysis of the French cultural context of this narrative would have given the book a wider audience. For academic libraries.
- R. James Tobin, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Milwaukee
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 2nd ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. What does America mean to French intellectuals? Is it a postmodern ideal situated beyond history and metaphysics? A source of spiritual decadence that threatens the European tradition? Or is it Extreme-Occident, the Far Western site that gives historical reality to the utopias of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? Jean-Philippe Mathy offers a systematic examination of French texts that address matters relating to America. He shows how prominent French intellectuals have represented America as myth and metaphor, covering the entire ideological spectrum from Maurras to Duhamel, and from Sartre to Aron. The texts themselves range from novels and poems to travel narratives and philosophical essays by Claudel, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Kristeva, and many others. Mathy deftly situates these discourses on America against the background of French intellectual and political history since 1789. The judgements on American culture that originate in France, he contends, are also statements about France itself Widespread condemnation of American materialism and pragmatism cuts across deep ideological and political divides in France, primarily because French intellectuals still operate within a framework of critical and aesthetic models born in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and elaborated in the age of French classicism. Mathy engages issues central to interpreting the American experience, such as controversies over multiculturalism and Eurocentrism. Although Mathy deals mainly with French authors, he does not limit himself to them. Rather, he uses a comparative, cross-cultural approach that also takes in accounts of America by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Junger, Gramsci, and other Europeans, as well as American self-interpretations from Emerson and Dewey to Cornel West and Christopher Lasch. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780226510644

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