Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2006—2007 Forum on Travel
Senior Fellow, Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Amerique le miroir: Tocqueville, Beauvoir, and What Outside Observers Reveal about American Democracy
Even the most unwavering self examination fails to provide the view that handing the mirror to someone else can. Today, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is widely considered the best source for students of American politics and society. It is also highly revealing about French politics and society during the turbulent 1830s. As a product of this old world, Tocqueville’s commitment to overturning the ancien regime was to make his personage obsolete. Simeone de Beauvoir’s journey to America had a similar task of unmaking and remaking her self. In 1947, the year suffrage was awarded to the women of France, Beauvoir set off to the United States to study and compare the lives of women in the two countries. During her journey she developed the thesis for The Second Sex. On returning to France, she dropped her original idea of comparing the lives of women in France and the U.S. and instead published her travel journal, America, Day by Day and wrote The Second Sex. Dr. McBride will examine how these two figures that embody the development of new democratic eras demonstrate the importance of travel as an unheralded aspect of democratic development and theory—and what they reveal about American democratic temperaments and practices.