American writers and artists – from Thomas Jefferson to Henry James, Edith Wharton to Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald to Shay Youngblood – have viewed the French as a people who value art and creativity, the aesthete and the intellectual more highly than Americans. Those Americans marginalized or discriminated against in the U.S., such as Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and James Baldwin, judged Paris to be a place where they could live and love and create as they pleased. In fall 2010, Professor Suzanne Jones’s first-year seminar “Americans in Paris” discussed what these and other Americans hoped to find in Paris that they did not find in the United States. The seminar located where the Paris of dreams departed from reality and compared Americans’ quests across generations and demographic groups. Throughout the semester the seminar discussed American stereotypes of Paris and French people (both positive and negative), why these stereotypes exist, and what functions they have served for Americans. Examining a variety of topics, from the effect of place on identity to cosmopolitanism and globalization, seminar participants considered how Americans perceive the French and why, and the effects of misperceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Click on “About” on the menu above to view the syllabus.
With the help of the University of Richmond’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology and the Digital Scholarship Lab, the seminar created an interactive map, pinpointing where many famous Americans lived in Paris, and a timeline indicating when they were in residence. Seminar participants researched the reasons these Americans went to Paris and the social, political, and/or aesthetic context they lived in while there. The map allows viewers to visualize the temporal and spatial relationships among historical figures and to compare why these Americans went to Paris and what they found there. When you go to the map, click on either the map markers or the names on the timeline to display a name, image, street location, and the titles of short essays written by seminar participants: http://tocqueville.richmond.edu/AmericansInParis.html. The names on the timeline are color-coded according to profession, as shown in the accompanying legend. Within individual bubbles, click on the linked street address for a current view of Paris, and the essay titles for the full essay texts, which are linked to this WordPress site.