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 Americans hoped to find in Paris that they did not find in the United States. We located where the Paris of dreams departed from reality and compared Americans’ quests across generations and demographic groups. Throughout the semester we thought about American stereotypes of Paris and French people (both positive and negative), why these stereotypes exist, and what functions they serve for Americans. Examining a variety of topics, from the effect of place on identity to cosmopolitanism and globalization, we considered how Americans perceive the French and why, and the effects of misperceptions on both sides of the Atlantic.
With the help of the University of Richmond’s former Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology and the Digital Scholarship Lab, the seminar created the map below, pinpointing where many of these American visitors and expatriates lived in Paris, and a timeline indicating when they were in residence. Seminar participants researched the reasons these Americans went abroad and the social, political, and/or aesthetic context they lived in while there.
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. 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. Click on linked essay titles for the full essay text, hosted on the seminar's complementary Wordpress site.