America and the British Imaginary in by B. Miller

By B. Miller

In an cutting edge studying of fin-de-si?cle cultural texts, Brook Miller argues that British representations of the USA, american citizens, and Anglo-American family members on the flip of the 20th century supplied an incredible discussion board for cultural distinction.  reading America, Miller finds, provided an oblique type of self-scrutiny for British writers and readers, who remained properly insulated via the prevalence that critiquing American distinction invoked.

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De Tocqueville’s comparison of the United States and England culminates in a brief chapter titled “Why the National Vanity of the Americans Is More Restless and Captious than That of the English” (631). De Tocqueville argues that while every free nation exhibits “vainglorious” patriotism, Americans are especially grasping, eager, and jealous to exact praise for their nation. By contrast, the English, exhibiting their characteristic reserve, “stand unmoved in their solitary greatness, well assured that they are seen of all the world without any effort to show themselves off, and that no one will attempt to drive them from that position” (de Tocqueville 253).

John Burns reiterated the theme: the promise of America was ‘circumscribed and impeded by the undue exaltation of the Unit over the Aggregate, of the Individual as against the Community, of the Monopoly as against the State’” (43). The contrast between these perspectives and the emphasis upon America’s republican institutions, noted in Dickens’s American Notes, partly reflects the conceptualizing of the state in Arnoldian terms at the end of the nineteenth century. As we will see, later British writers did examine Americans’ pride in their republican institutions as well as its values.

Dickens begins with an apology for the opinions to follow because his task has been to “resist the temptation of troubling my readers with my own deductions and conclusions” (266). He proceeds to declare Americans “by nature brave, cordial, hospitable, and affectionate,” and praises the combination of this predisposition with “cultivation and refinement in educated Americans” (266).  . to the whole people” but are deficient among the masses as a result of several “blemish[es] in the popular mind,” including “Universal Distrust” and the love of “smart dealing” (266, 267).

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