The Problem of America as Artifact European Expansion
Europe and America no longer exist;there is only the phase of Western civilization which we call American because it came to birth in a European colony named America. . . . Today Europe is a colony of its colony--and well on the way to becoming a second America.
-- Ludwig Marcuse, European Anti-Americanism ( 1953)
It is wiser to confront American culture as something as alien as that of the Eskimos.
-- E. N. W. Mottram, American Studies in Europe( 1955)
In the revolutionary year 1849, the Austrian satirist Johann Nestroy posed the penetrating question in his play Lady und Schneider: Would Europe become a province of Pennsylvania, or North America a suburb of Frankfurt. Even today, after the apparent victory of the American way of life in Europe, this question cannot be answered easily: while both became the other's counterpart, they also remained each other's other. "America, you have got it better," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe exclaimed. Was this the reason why, during the years of writing Dichtung und Wahrheit, he still found ample time to advise Karl August of Weimar to speculate with dollars in New York as well as to invest in Mexican silver mines? Or what are we to make of the poet Nikolaus Lenau's famous (and incorrect) lament that a poetic curse must be hanging over the promised land on the other side of the Atlantic because the United States lacked nightingales?
The discovery of the American continent by Europeans not only increased the living space of the Old World by five times--42 million square kilometers were now available in the New World for European colonization and imperialism after 1492, a nice piece of real estate indeed! This discovery also opened unlimited possibilities for European experience and knowledge, hopes and dreams, judgments and misjudgments, actions and misactions. Our difficulties with America already begin with the seemingly magical number 1492, with the heroic phrase of the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus,