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Affinities with the 'Old' Continent or the 'Fatherland'

Assent and Dissent in U.S. Culture, 1830-1940

Waldemar Zacharasiewicz

Travel accounts invariably juxtapose the country visited, the cultural practices of its inhabitants and its sites and institutions with the corresponding phenomena in the country of origin. This frequently gives rise to, or reflects, ethical dilemmas since the process of cross-cultural representation involved naturally prompts an assessment of the cultural assets and the liabilities of the country of origin. The following article concerns itself with American accounts of travels to the ‘Old World’, especially to Germany and other parts of Central Europe, with reflections on United States society as a result of the encounter with the ‘Fatherland’ or certain aspects of other national cultures in Europe. This article sheds light on the significance of Germany to American travellers and its importance for the cultural debate in the United States. It examines the increasing attention paid to Germany because of its rise to a cultural centre in Europe. It also takes into consideration the ever growing number of immigrants to the United States from Germany and deals with the complex differentiation between German-speaking people. It further notes the awareness of American observers of the denominational divide between predominantly Protestant northern Germany and its Catholic south, which until the Great War included the German-speaking parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The various subregions of Germany elicited different reactions from the visitors depending on their own religion and cultural background. The study also pays special attention to American travellers from the Southern States, whose well-documented reactions to their European journeys deserve special consideration as they have been less frequently analyzed than those of their Northern compatriots.