America's Germany : national self and cultural other after World War II / by Georg Schmundt-Thomas.
This study aims to show how images of Germany often reveal more about America and its concerns than about Germany itself. Drawing on the methodology of cultural studies and anthropology, America's Germany explores selected post-World War II examples of American representations of Germany and the Germans in literature, film, the media, and policy formulation, showing how representations of Germany have been involved in the self-definition of America. W. G. Smith's The Last of the Conquerors and some of Kay Boyle's short stories in The Smoking Mountain illustrate how African-American GIs conceived of occupied Germany as a Utopian alternative to America, articulating in the contact with the foreign culture a domestic civil rights agenda. By contrast, Thomas Pynchon mounts a radical cultural self-critique in Gravity's Rainbow by depicting disintegrating Nazi Germany as a dystopian anticipation of postwar America. His description of the German V-2 rocket constitutes an indictment of the American space program in the 1960's. In addition, John Hawkes's The Cannibal, Walter Abish's How German Is It, and short stories by Joyce Carol Oates and others turn to Germany for less historically specific commentaries on American culture. Structurally similar to literary accounts, Hollywood and the newsmedia depicted foreign relations between the U.S. and Germany in terms of sexual relations between GIs and frauleins, thus intervening allegorically in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The fear of "fraternization" in the films A Foreign Affair, The Big Lift and Fraulein draws on a traditional American self-conception as innocence threatened from abroad, while it also inscribes a contemporary debate about America's global role. While literary accounts, films and the press intervened discursively in Germany, American military government directly shaped material reality there. However, Henry Morgenthau's and James S. Martin's blueprints for the reconstruction of Germany grew out of a long standing American tradition of protest against industrial capitalism rather than a realistic analysis of global political problems. New Deal industrial reformers saw the reconstruction of Germany as the last chance to fulfill American trustbusting efforts and to salvage an agrarian idea of America safe from industrial corruption.
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