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By Jesper Gulddal (auth.)

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Sample text

And, owing to this absence of history and cultural traditions, the place is nothing but raw, uncultivated nature. According to Moore, it is precisely history, or rather the cultural capital it accumulates, that imbues a landscape with spirit and makes it poetically fertile. Ideologically, we are far removed from any Rousseau-like celebration of the simple, authentic life in the wilderness. For Moore, pure nature is a corrupting force that inhibits the development of culture: All that creation’s varying mass assumes Of grand or lovely, here aspires and blooms; Bold rise the mountains, rich the gardens glow, Bright lakes expand, and conquering rivers flow; Mind, mind alone, without whose quickening ray, The world’s a wilderness and man but clay, Mind, mind alone, in barren, still repose, Nor blooms, nor rises, nor expands, nor flows!

Americans are shopkeepers, Europeans poets and artists. The United States is ruled by crude utilitarianism, whereas Europeans are devotees of philosophy, art, and true morals. A week after having disembarked in Baltimore, Lenau is able to inform his brother-in-law back home that the Americans are so completely inane and greedy for dollars that the nightingale, the Romantic symbol of art par excellence, is sensible enough to stay away. The intransigent, all-embracing nature of Lenau’s criticism, its astounding aggressiveness, and its choice of motifs, are all characteristic features of Romantic anti-Americanism: The American has no wine, no nightingale!

Second, Trollope finds that the contemporary wave of religious zeal in America can only be explained negatively as a result of young Americans having nothing else to do. Culture and entertainment are virtually nonexistent anyway, but religious hardliners make things even worse by outlawing harmless amusements. In Cincinnati, playing cards and billiards have been prohibited. In Philadelphia, the citizens are so eager to remember the Sabbath that they block the streets with chains on Sundays, so that horses and carriages cannot pass.

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