Sartre and the United States: 'A series of adventures in America'
Abstract:Sartre's name has often been associated with blatant anti-Americanism. This article rejects this one-sided representation and shows Sartre's early fascination with American art forms (cinema, literature and jazz) associated with his interest in modernity in general. He became a vigorous promoter of American culture in France and many of his literary works from the 1930s and 1940s display this American influence. His passion developed when he travelled to the United States in 1945 and 1946; on one hand, Sartre's familiarity with Protestant values confirmed his sympathy with the basic tenets of American democracy; on the other, witnessing racial discrimination in the southern states initiated his career as ethical militant and, later, Third World activist. After 1952, at the height of the Cold War, Sartre's tone changed: he delivered a political critique of the U.S. government, culminating after the Rosenberg Trial and during the Vietnam War. In his role as universal conscience of a global civil society, Sartre claimed the right to condemn the 'most powerful country in the world', which nevertheless did not represent 'its centre of gravity'. The article concludes by discussing the centrality of the United States as an object for Sartrean intellectual engagement in three different phases: fascination, complicity, political condemnation.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2006
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- Journal of Romance Studies promotes innovative critical work in the areas of linguistics, literature, performing and visual arts, media, material culture, intellectual and cultural history, critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, social sciences, and anthropology. The primary focus is on those parts of the world that speak, or have spoken, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but work on other cultures may be included. Issues cross national and disciplinary boundaries in order to stimulate new ways of thinking about cultural history and practice.
Published in Association with the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
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