Skip to main content

Seductive Journey

American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age

For centuries, France has cast an extraordinary spell on travelers. Harvey Levenstein’s Seductive Journey explains why so many Americans have visited it, and tells, in colorful detail, what they did when they got there. The result is a highly entertaining examination of the transformation of American attitudes toward French food, sex, and culture, as well as an absorbing exploration of changing notions of class, gender, race, and nationality.

Levenstein begins in 1786, when Thomas Jefferson instructed young upper-class American men to travel overseas for self-improvement rather than debauchery. Inspired by these sentiments, many men crossed the Atlantic to develop "taste" and refinement. However, the introduction of the transatlantic steamship in the mid-nineteenth century opened France to people further down the class ladder. As the upper class distanced themselves from the lower-class travelers, tourism in search of culture gave way to the tourism of "conspicuous leisure," sex, and sensuality. Cultural tourism became identified with social-climbing upper-middle-class women. In the 1920s, prohibition in America and a new middle class intent on "having fun" helped make drunken sprees in Paris more enticing than trudging through the Louvre. Bitter outbursts of French anti-Americanism failed to jolt the American ideal of a sensual, happy-go-lucky France, full of joie de vivre. It remained Americans’ favorite overseas destination.

From Fragonard to foie gras, the delicious details of this story of how American visitors to France responded to changing notions of leisure and blazed the trail for modern mass tourism makes for delightful, thought-provoking reading.

"...a thoroughly readable and highly likable book."—Deirdre Blair, New York Times Book Review

Read an excerpt.

412 pages | 41 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Culture Studies

History: American History, European History

Travel and Tourism: Tourism and History

Table of Contents

Pt. 1: In Search of Taste and Distinction, 1786-1848
1: Jefferson versus Adams
2: Getting There Was Not Half the Fun
3: A Man’s World
4: Eat, Drink, but Be Wary
5: "The Athens of Modern Europe"
6: Pleasures of the Flesh
Pt. 2: Paris and Tourism Transformed, 1848-1870
7: Paris Transformed
8: Keeping Away from the Joneses
9: The Feminization of American Tourism
Pt. 3: Class, Gender, and the Rise of Leisure Tourism, 1870-1914
10: "The Golden Age of Travel"
11: Prisoners of Leisure: Upper-Class Tourism
12: How "The Other Half" Toured
13: Class, Gender, and the Rise of Antitourism
14: Machismo, Morality, and Millionaires
Pt. 4: The Invasion of the Lower Orders, 1917-1930
15: Doughboys and Dollars
16: "How’re You Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm?"
17: A Farewell to "Culture Vultures"
18: Unhappy Hosts, Unwelcome Visitors
19: Epilogue


ForeWord Magazine: ForeWord Magazine Book Awards

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press