Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France From Jefferson to the Jazz Age

Overview

For centuries, France has cast an extraordinary spell on travelers. Harvey Levenstein's Seductive Journey explains why so many Americans have visited it, and tells, in colorful detail, what they did when they got there. The result is a highly entertaining examination of the transformation of American attitudes toward French food, sex, and culture, as well as an absorbing exploration of changing notions of class, gender, race, and nationality.

Levenstein begins in 1786, when ...

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Overview

For centuries, France has cast an extraordinary spell on travelers. Harvey Levenstein's Seductive Journey explains why so many Americans have visited it, and tells, in colorful detail, what they did when they got there. The result is a highly entertaining examination of the transformation of American attitudes toward French food, sex, and culture, as well as an absorbing exploration of changing notions of class, gender, race, and nationality.

Levenstein begins in 1786, when Thomas Jefferson instructed young upper-class American men to travel overseas for self-improvement rather than debauchery. Inspired by these sentiments, many men crossed the Atlantic to develop "taste" and refinement. However, the introduction of the transatlantic steamship in the mid-nineteenth century opened France to people further down the class ladder. As the upper class distanced themselves from the lower-class travelers, tourism in search of culture gave way to the tourism of "conspicuous leisure," sex, and sensuality. Cultural tourism became identified with social-climbing upper-middle-class women. In the 1920s, prohibition in America and a new middle class intent on "having fun" helped make drunken sprees in Paris more enticing than trudging through the Louvre. Bitter outbursts of French anti-Americanism failed to jolt the American ideal of a sensual, happy-go-lucky France, full of joie de vivre. It remained Americans' favorite overseas destination.

From Fragonard to foie gras, the delicious details of this story of how American visitors to France responded to changing notions of leisure and blazed the trail for modern mass tourism makes for delightful, thought-provoking reading.

"...a thoroughly readable and highly likable book."—Deirdre Blair, New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

Deirdre Bair
[Levenstein] has combined the pithy, amusing and sometimes embarrassing comments of Americans writing about France with new insights into the cultural history of going abroad. . . .the result is a thoroughly readable and highly likeable book. -- New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
This highly readable volume from Levenstein, an authority on the social history of food, opens with Jefferson and the beginnings of tourism. Travel in the 18th century was an arduous, masculine event. As ships and the French railroad improved, tourism changed from a high-class learning experience that took months or even years to a matter of shorter, 'inauthentic experiences.' 'Recreational tourism' expanded as fares became cheaper and travel by steerage became a third-class event. By the mid-19th century, women were the main tourists and France the destination of choice, as England was a place for visiting relatives and very few women traveled to eastern Europe. During Prohibition, Paris' legal drinking (as well as its art) beckoned many Americans. -- Harry V. Willems, Southeast Kansas Library System, Iola
Booknews
Tells the colorful story of American tourism in France and the transformation of American attitudes toward French food, sex, and culture. Shows how, over the course of 150 years, the trip to France moved down the class ladder, crossed the gender line, and opened to black Americans, and discusses resistance among Americans to these changes and the backlash against American tourists in the 1920s. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A lively social history of the varied delights (ranging from food to sex, and from racial equality to the Louvre) that have at times drawn Americans to France. Levenstein (The Paradox of Plenty, 1992), author of several acclaimed volumes on the social history of eating in America, provides an entertaining and insightful overview of the very nature of France's centuries-long seduction of Americans. Beginning in the late 18th century, when travel was limited to wealthy young blades, and ending in the 1920s, when men and women of different races and classes poured into France, Levenstein's account is filled with anecdotes and details derived primarily from the many memoirs, archives, and secondary literature that support the text. Through a skillful weaving of narrative and citations, he relates how improvements in transportation changed the trip abroad for Americans from a life-threatening, sickening sea voyage to a vacation in and of itself aboard luxury liners; he reveals, as well, how the visitors reacted to French art and prostitution. While all this is entertaining and informative, Seductive Journey is also a serious study of transformations of race, class structure, and gender occurring within American and French society and reflected in American Francophile tourism. We glimpse the 'cultural tourism' of Thomas Jefferson's day, characterized by extended Grand Tours, as it shifted into the 'leisure tourism' that defined American travel to France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The rise of mass recreational tourism lies at the heart of Levenstein's appraisal of these changes. His book, though, ends on a more somber note, with the flight of America's blacks to acountry more racially tolerant than 'home,' and with a French backlash against American tourists in the 1920s, when Americans were attacked by the frustrated French, who considered them misers. Enjoyable for scholars, travelers, and armchair dwellers alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226473765
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1998
  • Pages: 412
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Levenstein is professor emeritus of history at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He has published a number of books on American history, including Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet and Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. 1 In Search of Taste and Distinction, 1786-1848
1 Jefferson versus Adams 3
2 Getting There Was Not Half the Fun 13
3 A Man's World 25
4 Eat, Drink, but Be Wary 37
5 "The Athens of Modern Europe" 53
6 Pleasures of the Flesh 67
Pt. 2 Paris and Tourism Transformed, 1848-1870
7 Paris Transformed 85
8 Keeping Away from the Joneses 93
9 The Feminization of American Tourism 107
Pt. 3 Class, Gender, and the Rise of Leisure Tourism, 1870-1914
10 "The Golden Age of Travel" 125
11 Prisoners of Leisure: Upper-Class Tourism 139
12 How "The Other Half" Toured 157
13 Class, Gender, and the Rise of Antitourism 177
14 Machismo, Morality, and Millionaires 197
Pt. 4 The Invasion of the Lower Orders, 1917-1930
15 Doughboys and Dollars 217
16 "How're You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?" 233
17 A Farewell to "Culture Vultures" 245
18 Unhappy Hosts, Unwelcome Visitors 257
19 Epilogue 277
Notes 285
Index 353
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