Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation
Chelyabinsk State University
Faculty of Linguistics
English Language Department
Student, group LTE 302
Instructor A.A. Elistratov
American Culture is a massive, variegated and changing topic. It is evident that part of the definition of contemporary American identity and significance in the world has emerged within the very hegemony of this culture and the English language and its diffusion worldwide since the Second World War. Whether talking about Hollywood cinema, suburbs, NATO or a pervasive commodity like Levi Strauss blue jeans, American culture has provided both a worldwide image of a complex “modern” society and a template for reactions to that society. Moreover,
American projections abroad have been shaped by American colonialism and war as well as decontextualized images from advertising, news, political rhetoric and mass media. In order to gain a basic understanding of the “Americanness” of products, practices and images, we should recognize the transformations that the American culture has undergone in different milieu worldwide. Yet, at the same time, American culture has changed in the past and is changing dynamically in the present through the very status of the United States as a meeting ground for world cultures, immigrant and transient. While globalism is a topic of intense current discussion, American culture has been global since the first encounters of Europeans and American Indians. One cannot talk of contemporary American culture and its language without recognizing African American music, Muslim education, Hasidic businessmen, Southeast-Asian temples, Hispanic urbanization, Japanese and British investments, European fashions, multiple varieties of Chinese food, and competing varieties of wine and whiskey as constitutive of a changing cultural landscape. Nor can one express these features without noting the conflicts erupting in diversity the polarizations and contests, as well as the renewals of American culture this same diversity can facilitate. It is prudent to conceive of American culture and its language as a process rather than as a finished object. The sheer size of the United States, its regional differences and the plethora of peoples and places within its boundaries also make any description and generalization a formidable task.
1. THE LAND, PEOPLE AND LANGUAGE
“Out of nothing comes language and
out of language comes nothing
The vastness and abundance of the land is one key to understanding the American character—how Americans think of themselves. Likewise, regional variations also help to define Americans’ understanding of themselves and introduce a certain diversity into what it means to be an American. Indeed, diversity is the hallmark of this nation of immigrants. The ethnic mix of the country has always been and remains ever in flux, and Americans have never been shy to borrow what they like from any ethnic group to the effect of redefining their culture and customs.
The hope for new lives with new opportunities that brought millions of immigrants to the United States in the past continues today. The United States has always been a nation of immigrants and therefore constantly in flux as new waves of migration from without and within redefined the American experience.
The United States is not the world’s biggest country, but most Americans like to think it is and act as if it were. The richness and enormity of American resources make the nation virtually self-sufficient in many areas, most notably in agriculture. With such abundance, Americans are big consumers with generally high incomes, at least by world standards. “America the Beautiful,” a patriotic poem and song by Katharine Lee Bates, sums up Americans’ emotion about their homeland: from sea to shining sea, beautiful, spacious skies overlook majestic purple mountains, amber waves of grain, and fruited plains. God shed his light on the United States, where freedom spreads across the wilderness and alabaster cities gleam. When this song is sung at public functions, it is not unusual for the audience to sing along, many with tears in their eyes.
For many Americans, the land itself is proof of a good God and a Godgiven destiny. Space—unknown and often unowned—gave early Americans in real terms a sense of individual freedom. This is an old tradition. When the Reverend Roger Williams of the Church of England arrived in Boston in 1631, he refused to serve the church there because he no longer believed in an established church. In fact, he had become, like the Puritans he later served for a while, a separatist, but too radical even for them. He criticized the Massachusetts Bay Company—even questioning the legality of its charter—and the churches. He befriended the natives and supported their ownership of the land. Williams refused to quiet himself or retract his positions and was given six weeks to remove himself from Massachusetts. He found his own space, Providence, where he could practice his own ideas the way he wanted. Eight years later, he had a royal patent for a united Rhode Island. For colonists and the immigrants who followed them, the New World was freedom from the constraints of the Old World and freedom to pursue individual wants and desires in a bountiful land.
Americans believe that if something—anything—exists, it can probably be found in the United States. To them it seems that the United States have it all, from all the extremes and everything in between. And Americans take pride in this, be it fallacy or not. ............