Chapter

Scarlett O'Hara in Damascus

Elizabeth F. Thompson

in Globalizing American Studies

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780226185064
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226185088 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226185088.003.0007
Scarlett O'Hara in Damascus

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This chapter presents a recuperation of Gone With the Wind's foreign career by examining its first run in the Arab world, during the early years of World War II. Historians have generally assumed that Arabs held a high opinion of American culture until the Arab–Israeli war of 1948. Their views are based on a perceived preference for American schools and businesses in the Middle East. The chapter also suggests the ways in which historical context shaped the reception of Hollywood's universal vernacular: war conditions, movie advertising, and the particular conditions of urban public spheres appear to have variously altered responses to Gone With the Wind in Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus. It considers a limited body of evidence as a first step toward a history of Middle Eastern movie spectatorship. Such a history enriches the understanding of how Arabs' attitudes toward American culture have changed over time. The chapter also throws light on popular values in Arab politics at a specific moment, near the close of the colonial era. Arab responses to Gone With the Wind reveal profound tensions between universal humanism and particularist religious and national identity.

Keywords: Arab politics; Damascus; foreign career; American culture; universal humanism

Chapter.  11907 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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