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From The Outer World / Edition 1

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Overview

Oscar and Lilian Handlin show us how the new voyagers in the twentieth century--from Asia, Africa, Australia, and Latin America--record their experiences in the United States. The narratives of the non-Europeans, they find, clearly reflect the circumstances of their composition, as well as the political prejudices of their authors. These literary products have earned far less attention than those of the English, French, Germans, and Russians, and this volume proposes to redress the balance.

The earliest of the thirty-one travel accounts was written by Rabindranath Tagore in 1924, and the most recent by V. S. Naipaul in 1989. Many accounts are newly translated from Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Spanish. Some authors are well known, but the less famous are equally insightful. Some insights are weighty, many are amusing. Octavio Paz, a sympathetic observer who admired his country's neighbor, was uneasy that the most powerful country in the world sustained "a global ideology…as outdated as the doctrine of free enterprise, the steam boat, and other relics of the nineteenth century." The Israeli journalist Hanoch Bartov observed that "God conceived the car first, with man an afterthought, created for the car's use (a Southern California legend)." In coming to a truer understanding of the United States, these writers noted the frightening repercussions of unsettled lives, perceived class differentiation, contentions regarding the status of women, the sense of national unity amid diversity, and countless other issues of concern to those who try to find meaning in the contemporary world.

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Editorial Reviews

The Atlantic - Phoebe-Lou Adams
In their thorough and lucid introduction to this collection of travel reports, the Handlins describe perceptions of and attitudes toward the United States in non-European countries. The visitors' observations that constitute the body of the book vary widely in point of origin and point of view. A few are by well-known authors--Rabindranath Tagore, Octavio Paz. Most are by journalists or students or diplomats. These travelers observed racism, economic disparity, poor school systems, and a number of other regrettable but familiar deficiencies. They occasionally found something to admire. What holds a reader's attention, providing occasional surprises and even amusement, is the way a particular writer views his material and the relationship of that view to his personal background. Travelers, whether they want to or not, carry their own countries with them, and some of the countries one encounters in this collection are decidedly engaging.
American Studies - Brian R. Harding
The 'Outer World' of the title is the world outside and apart from the Atlantic Civilization of Europe and the United States, but including Australia and Israel, which the editors define as 'settler societies.' Hitherto, though plenty of attention has been paid to European travellers who have visited the Americas, the impressions and opinions of Outer World travellers have not been much noted. By anthologizing a selection of 'western voyages' by modern travellers from Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America, the Handlins set out, as they put it, to redress the balance somewhat. The [book's] intention--to achieve a sort of defamiliarization by looking at one's country through the eyes of visitors from cultures which do not share some of its basic assumptions--is an admirable one.
American Studies

The 'Outer World' of the title is the world outside and apart from the Atlantic Civilization of Europe and the United States, but including Australia and Israel, which the editors define as 'settler societies.' Hitherto, though plenty of attention has been paid to European travellers who have visited the Americas, the impressions and opinions of Outer World travellers have not been much noted. By anthologizing a selection of 'western voyages' by modern travellers from Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America, the Handlins set out, as they put it, to redress the balance somewhat. The [book's] intention—to achieve a sort of defamiliarization by looking at one's country through the eyes of visitors from cultures which do not share some of its basic assumptions—is an admirable one.
— Brian R. Harding

The Atlantic

In their thorough and lucid introduction to this collection of travel reports, the Handlins describe perceptions of and attitudes toward the United States in non-European countries. The visitors' observations that constitute the body of the book vary widely in point of origin and point of view. A few are by well-known authors—Rabindranath Tagore, Octavio Paz. Most are by journalists or students or diplomats. These travelers observed racism, economic disparity, poor school systems, and a number of other regrettable but familiar deficiencies. They occasionally found something to admire. What holds a reader's attention, providing occasional surprises and even amusement, is the way a particular writer views his material and the relationship of that view to his personal background. Travelers, whether they want to or not, carry their own countries with them, and some of the countries one encounters in this collection are decidedly engaging.
— Phoebe-Lou Adams

The Atlantic
In their thorough and lucid introduction to this collection of travel reports, the Handlins describe perceptions of and attitudes toward the United States in non-European countries. The visitors' observations that constitute the body of the book vary widely in point of origin and point of view. A few are by well-known authors--Rabindranath Tagore, Octavio Paz. Most are by journalists or students or diplomats. These travelers observed racism, economic disparity, poor school systems, and a number of other regrettable but familiar deficiencies. They occasionally found something to admire. What holds a reader's attention, providing occasional surprises and even amusement, is the way a particular writer views his material and the relationship of that view to his personal background. Travelers, whether they want to or not, carry their own countries with them, and some of the countries one encounters in this collection are decidedly engaging.
— Phoebe-Lou Adams
American Studies
The 'Outer World' of the title is the world outside and apart from the Atlantic Civilization of Europe and the United States, but including Australia and Israel, which the editors define as 'settler societies.' Hitherto, though plenty of attention has been paid to European travellers who have visited the Americas, the impressions and opinions of Outer World travellers have not been much noted. By anthologizing a selection of 'western voyages' by modern travellers from Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America, the Handlins set out, as they put it, to redress the balance somewhat. The [book's] intention--to achieve a sort of defamiliarization by looking at one's country through the eyes of visitors from cultures which do not share some of its basic assumptions--is an admirable one.
— Brian R. Harding
Library Journal
Oscar Handlin (emeritus, Harvard) and Lillian Handlin (both, Liberty in America, LJ 11/15/94) have brought together 31 travel accounts of 20th-century visitors to the United States from the non-European world. The selections are arranged from the earliest (1924), by Indian Nobelist Sir Rabindranath Tagore, to the latest in the 1990s. Some authors are prominent, such as V.S. Naipaul and Octavio Paz; others are less well known. They visit many different parts of America, from the big cities (New York, Chicago) to the woods of the South. The Israeli Hanoch Bartov, for example, is fascinated with the car culture of Los Angeles. Others are highly critical, such as the Islamic fundamentalist Sayyid Qutb. Many demonstrate the superficial outlook of a traveler with no understanding of the culture of the visited country. These selections make one stop and think how difficult it is for a stranger to grasp what is observed, particularly when not knowing the language of the country. The editors provide an explanatory introduction to the texts. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.George M. Jenks, Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674326408
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.69 (w) x 9.61 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Oscar Handlin, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, was Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was the editor of This Was America.

Lilian Handlin is the author of George Bancroft: The Intellectual as Democrat. Together with Oscar Handlin, she has recently completed the four-volume History of Liberty in America.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 A Monotony of Multitudes (1924) 57
2 Looking for Work (1920s) 65
3 Among the Migrants (1930s) 93
4 Education as a Way Up (1934) 114
5 Cultural Strains (1934) 151
6 World without Ghosts (1943) 164
7 Being Poor in America (1940s) 172
8 Chinatown (1945) 192
9 The American Character (1949) 204
10 Fundamentalism (1949) 209
11 Power and Patriotism (1951) 233
12 Encounters with Racism (1957) 241
13 Glimpses of Urban Life (1962) 253
14 Vedanta Plaza (1964) 260
15 Child-Rearing and National Character (1968) 271
16 Measures of Affluence (1963) 292
17 Harlem (1965) 318
18 Food in America (1970) 329
19 Hollywood Yoga (1977) 334
20 In the Backwoods (1977) 347
21 Living Habits (1978) 390
22 Youth (1979) 396
23 New Societies (1979) 400
24 Spacious Yet Confining (1982) 409
25 A Massive Society (1983) 414
26 Choosing How to Live (1984) 419
27 Outcasts of the Western World (1985) 434
28 Life by the Clock (1989) 448
29 The Contradictions of Modernity (1990) 452
30 Undisciplined Youth (1993) 460
31 Survivals (1989) 466
Sources 485
Acknowledgments 489
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