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National Stereotypes in Perspective

Americans in France, Frenchmen in America

Edited by William L. Chew III

Since the late 18th century, when they first entered into an alliance during the American Revolution, the French and Americans have had a long and sometimes stormy relationship based on a complex mix of mutual admiration, cultural criticism, and sometimes downright disgust for the “other.” The relatively new interdisciplinary field of imagology, or image studies, allows us to place the dynamics of such a relationship into perspective by grounding its analysis firmly in the study of national stereotypes, in the process providing new insights into the mentality of the observer. For if anything, image studies demonstrate again and again that national character is not–as assumed uncritically for centuries–an innate essence of the “other”, but rather a self-serving functional construct of the observer.