America, European perceptions, Karl May


What is America? European misconceptions with regard to the Americas can be traced back to the beginning of transoceanic contact in 1492. From Columbus to the Spaghetti Westerns of the 20th century, Europeans have taken America, their "West," and manipulated and sculpted ic. A plethora of contradictory voices have contributed to the construction of a complicated and paradoxical Western mych. Each voice offered a different vision of the West. The versions are grounded in a shared Western setting, but the stories are dramatically different, even foreign. Such transnational perceptions of the American West have attracted the attention of several contemporary scholars. Among the influential European voices is the peculiar voice of a German novelise who conjured a vision of the American West without ever experiencing it. His portrayal, around which he carefully constructed an aura of factuality, powerfully shaped German perceptions the American West. May's Amerika, constructed from the 1870s to the 1890s, was as much a reflection of his native Germany as of the land he portrayed. Audiences greeted it with enthusiasm, their attitude whetted by previous exposure to the Wild Wild West. May's version of the Wild West came to dominate Germans' preexisting fascination with the American West; it struck a chord with and emanated from a newly achieved German national consciousness, allowing them to reencounter their own perceived past of noble savagery while simultaneously exhibiting their legitimacy as a young world power.