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The American and European Minds Compared:
An Essay in Definition

- Abstract

FRANCIS GOLFFRNG, poet and critic, is a professor in the English department at Bennington College. He has contributed both verse and essays to COMMENTARY, the latter including “The Public Voice: Remarks on Poetry Today” (together with Barbara Gibbs), July 1959; and “What Manner of Man Was Hitler?” February 1953. In connection with the present essay, Mr. Golffing writes: “The author spent his formative years in Central Europe and in England, before settling, in 1940, in the United States. His double focus-along with the inevitable distortions such a focus entails-may be attributed to his translation, at a crucial period of his life, from one cultural setting to another. He may plead in excuse that, having had ‘the best of two worlds, he has also had the worst, and that any serious imbalance in his views bespeaks, simply, the limitations of his own temperament. The affection he feels for American culture is neither greater nor less than what he feels for Europe; rather, it is different, the quick response to a certain rawness in our scene which mirrors, perhaps, a rawness within himself: just as in his reactions to Europe it is his classical and humanistic self that pricks up its ears once the password is sounded.”

THERE can be no doubt about it: ours is an age most favorable to a general exchange of persons. With or without benefit of such agencies as the Fulbright Commission, writers, painters, teachers ply freely between this continent and Europe; cosmopolitan attitudes are the order of the day and any insistence on national characteristics or peculiarities is readily decried as parochialism. hat this interchange has not yet reached the full proportions of a two-way traffic is due to material rather than psychological causes. Europeans today are as eager to explore the American scene as we are to explore Europe, and their relative lag (which, one often fears, may continue indefinitely) is strictly a matter of funds. For the European intellectual, with his chronic indigence, transatlantic travel is still an extraordinarily difficult enterprise, and in many cases entirely out of the question.

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