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French Resistance

The French-American Culture Wars

2000
Author:

Jean-Philippe Mathy

French Resistance

An original look at the intellectual issues that divide—and unite—these two republics.

Consistently illuminating and often polemical, French Resistance focuses on recent transatlantic debates over critical theory, national identity, and multiculturalism.

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Starting from well-publicized controversies such as the bicentennial of the French Revolution, the 1989 Affair of the Veil, or the more recent Sokal Affair, Jean-Philippe Mathy looks at how French and American national traditions have represented the other, and how different conceptions of liberalism, democratic pluralism, and republicanism figure in these representations.

Readers will find this book a useful diagnosis of the love-hate relationship between the United States and France. Mathy does an astute symptomatic reading of the French-American exchange over how to make a good and just society of people living and thinking together in a humane way.

Herman Lebovics, author of Mona Lisa's Escort: André Malraux and the Reinvention of French Culture

Vive la différence? Almost as soon as Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan began to captivate American academics, naysayers began to bemoan the effects of French theory on American thought. French critics, on the other hand, have made short shrift of what passes for intellectual life in America. French Resistance gets to the heart—and the history—of these vexed French-American relations. Consistently illuminating and often polemical, the book focuses on recent transatlantic debates over critical theory, national identity, and multiculturalism.

Starting from well-publicized controversies such as the bicentennial of the French Revolution, the 1989 Affair of the Veil, or the more recent Sokal Affair, Jean-Philippe Mathy looks at how each national tradition has represented the other, and how different conceptions of liberalism, democratic pluralism, and republicanism figure in these representations.

French Resistance takes exception to the commonplace opposition between a pluralist American model and an intolerant, centralized French one. At the same time, it places this rhetoric of incompatibility in the context of the long history of French and American controversies going back to the days of the French Revolution. Rather than oppose France and the United States as incomparable and incompatible regimes of nation building, this book argues that the two countries face similar challenges and mobilize comparable, if not identical, philosophical and political resources when it comes to closing the gap between their republican-democratic principles and national histories of oppression and persecution of individuals and groups on the basis of ethnicity, religion, national origin, and past colonial status.

French Resistance

Jean-Philippe Mathy is associate professor of French, comparative literature, criticism, and interpretive theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana. He is the author of Extrême-Occident: French Intellectuals and America (1993).

French Resistance

Readers will find this book a useful diagnosis of the love-hate relationship between the United States and France. Mathy does an astute symptomatic reading of the French-American exchange over how to make a good and just society of people living and thinking together in a humane way.

Herman Lebovics, author of Mona Lisa's Escort: André Malraux and the Reinvention of French Culture

Mathy synthesizes the history of ideas and the ethnography of intellectual life in an illuminating exploration of themes that divide and unite contemporary French and American thought. A provocative work for those engaged in these interchanges from various perspectives and disciplines.

Choice

Mr. Mathy’s book questions why France and America seem ever more divided—their respective intellectual sectors patently hostile toward each other—even as their cultures become increasingly homogenized. His book takes a balanced and realistic look at the deeper sources of conflict in this enduring transatlantic partnership.

Washington Times

French Resistance gets to the heart—and the history—of these vexed Franco-American relations. Consistently illuminating and often polemical, the book focuses on recent transatlantic debates over critical theory, national identity, and multiculturalism.

Translation Review

Mathy lucidly unfolds the urgent necessity to address that which in the politico-epistemological structures and institutions of both North American and French cultures remain unread.

L’Esprit Createur

A sophisticated study of the ways contemporary French and American people view their own culture and that of the other.

The French Review

French Resistance

Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INTRODUCTION

I French Theory in the United States
2 The French Revolution at Two Hundred: The Bicentennial and the Return of Rights-Liberalism
3 Back to la Republique: French Intellectuals after Communism
4 Cultural Studies, Postcolonialism, and the French National Idea
5 Multiculturalism and Its Discontents

CONCLUSION
NOTES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX