European Readings of American Popular Culture

European Readings of American Popular Culture

European Readings of American Popular Culture

European Readings of American Popular Culture

Synopsis

Since the Second World War, Europe has undergone a continual invasion: wave after wave of American popular culture. The diffusion of American culture in Europe is both a European story about America and an American story about Europe. This work examines this cross-cultural phenomenon from the European viewpoint. Nearly two dozen European experts in their respective fields offer an invigorating, engaging, and open-minded examination of America as perceived with the acute insight of the interested European outsider--a fruitful tradition that stretches back to Lafayette, de Tocqueville, and Goethe, to name three. Of interest to scholars, students, and general readers alike.

Excerpt

Rob Kroes

Where would Europe be without America? Probably where it is today, but only geographically so. Psychologically, America has always been Europe's "significant other," helping Europeans to define their sense of self by offering contrasts and counterpoints. Clearly, as a national culture, America stands within a larger framework of Western civilization. There are many continuities across the Atlantic in terms of cultural standards, aesthetic appreciation, and communities of taste. Yet at the same time America is not merely an offshoot of Europe in the sense that Iceland is. America is a cosmopolitan blend of many cultural repertoires, the result of a blithe bricolage that endlessly changes the context and content of culture as Europeans know it. Thus, not only has American culture developed into something that is predominantly contrapuntal to European views of culture, but also, retroactively, it has worked to instill a sense of Europeanness into Europeans. As André Siegfried pointed out in the 1920s, it took a trip to the United States to make him feel European. Equally, in the defense of their national identities and national cultures against the ongoing cultural penetration by America, many Europeans have raised the flag of an imperiled Europeanism, projecting their national fears onto a larger European screen.

When Europeans argue that they see America as a threat and a contrast to things dear to their hearts, what do they mean? It is never the case that they speak on behalf of all Europeans; indeed, for every European who has called for the rejection of American culture, another has welcomed it as a source of renewal and rejuvenation. Often it is a matter of generations clashing in Europe, of older generations rising in the defense of European culture as they see it, and younger generations defiantly adopting American cultural forms. Often it is also a matter . . .

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