- Why American civilization? American literature and academic exchange in occupied Europe
- Volume | Issue number
- 39 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
After 1945, many American writers and intellectuals devoted themselves to European reconstruction, tying American literature and culture to an agenda of reeducation and democratization. At the nexus of these efforts was American Studies, then a new and ideologically diffuse movement of writers, public intellectuals and academics from many disciplines. Drawing on original research in the archives of the Salzburg Seminar in "American Civilization" and other sources, this essay reflects on the American cultural mission in Europe more broadly. The academic contours of American Studies were by no means clear, nor was its ideological slant. The immense popular vogue for American literature in postwar Europe preceded all official American cultural overtures, and was largely beyond American control. I analyze European intellectuals’ attraction to American literature alongside stubborn preexisting European views of American culture, and I discuss American literary works that found new currency in the midst of postwar devastation.
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