Political Science | America Through Foreign Eyes
Y490 | 30704 | Craiutu


In this course, we shall explore a few classic works written by
mostly European thinkers about America. The central issue will be the
“rhetoric of America,” the question of American exceptionalism, and
the roots of anti-Americanism. Over the past two centuries, visitors
of the New World saw America as a prospect, a country whose historical
development foreshadowed the fate of modern industrial society. The
institutions of the United States have always been considered to be a
matter of more general interest than those of other nations in the
world. As James Bryce once put it, these institutions represent “an
experiment in the rule of multitude, tried on a scale unprecedently
vast. ... And yet they are something more than an experiment, for they
are believed to disclose and display the type of institutions toward
which, by a law of fate, the rest of civilized mankind are forced to
move.”
Is America the complete incarnation of the ideas of the Enlightenment,
a “postmodern” ideal situated beyond history, a source of spiritual
decadence that threatens the European tradition? Or is it a source of
rejuvenation for the rest of the world? Why are some people inclined
to espouse various forms of anti-Americanism? Readings will include
selections from classic books such as Alexis de Tocqueville’s
Democracy in America; James Bryce’s The American Commonwealth,  Hector
St. John de Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer, Francis
Troloppe’s The Domestic Manners of the Americans (1834) Charles
Dickens’s American Notes (1842) as well as contemporary analyses of
anti-Americanism. Requirements include a reading log,  one group
project, and an in-class exam.