The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Frontier Metamorphoses: Americanization and Otherness

Albena Bakratcheva (New Bulgarian University, Sofia)
Metamorphoses of the Frontier: Realities and Haunting Ghosts of Americanization

"The Frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization", Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893, thus pointing out a direction that could not be but positive. The questions to gradually arise later on could not possibly be predicted at the time: How rapid is rapid enough? Does rapidity guarantee effectiveness? What does "effective" mean? How far should the frontier shift and is this an endless process?, etc. What is clear though, is that Turner considers Americanization primarily in spatial terms, the very metaphor of the frontier implying chiefly territorial aspects.

A century and a half earlier, in 1744, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter: "We have seldom any news on our side of the globe that can be entertaining to you or yours. All our affairs are PETIT. They have a miniature resemblance only, of the GRAND things of Europe". Franklin's comparison between America and Europe is obviously contrastive. He was heading at the time towards the replacement of those "petit affairs" with "grand" European ones; devoted as he was to America's self-identity as a country and a nation, he saw Europe as a stimulus towards higher standards. Americanization was far beyond the horizon.

This paper will focus on the American viewpoint transformations in value-spatial comparisons between America and Europe, value gradually acquiring novel significance with the time. Using different literary and cultural texts - from different periods, - it will argue that space-focussedness has a long, specifically American tradition, leading a contemporary poet to state: "Space and time - America and England" (Susan Howe). Thus it will suggest - especially as far as New World - Old World parallels are concerned, - that the metaphorical linkage between space and value has underwent gradual shiftings of emphasis in the American vision, leading finally to the positively overloaded concept of Americanization. The Frontier will be seen as an all-times working premise in (and for) America: metamorphosing as it is, real or figured out.