Date of Award
Master of Arts
The "International Theme" in literature arose as a result of real-life confrontations between Americans and Europeans. Conflict was inevitable as the feudal tradition of England with its emphasis on social caste met head-on with the democratic traditions of a ew nation. By definition the "international theme" focused on the conflict of manners between two citizens of different nations who disagree on the correct way of behaving in a given situation. For example, the titled nobility of Europe feel that some deference should be shown to them due to their rank and not because they have accomplished something of merit. Particularly, in the early history of the American nation, ordinary folk felt that to show homage to European nobility was incorrect. To be obsequious to decadent Europe was unthinkable to many of the common people of the United States.
Although many Americans felt that Europe was corrupt, there still was much curiosity about England, and some interest in France and Italy.
Prior to the Civil War there were only a few travelers to England and other European countries--mostly students, scholars, and artists. With cessation of hostilities and improved steamship transportation, more travelers began to cross the Atlantic. They differed from the first group of people in that they were mainly tourists seeking some diversion from Reconstruction and some escape from the bustling nature of the American nature. For many from the prosperous North, it was a Mark Twain called it, the "Gilded Age". It was a time when the wealthy spent their money is a conspicuous way. One way was to tour Europe and flaunt their untaxed wealth on the natives.
Thaw, David Charles, "Influence of the "international theme" in the novels of Sinclair Lewis." (1980). Master's Theses. 1363.