erik lundegaard

“J'ai l'oeil americain”

Interesting sidenote on LE CORBEAU. At one point we see the good doctor reading one of the poision-pen letters and it's translated as “I see all and I tell all,” but if you look at the text it reads “J'ai l'oeil americain et je dirai tout,” which means, literally, “I have the American eye and I tell all.” So, one wonders, how did “the American eye” ever mean “seeing all”?

Some quick internet research. For a bottomless pit of information, there's not much out there and most of it's in French. From what I gather, though, the phrase related to the popularity, in France, of the early 19th-century novels of James Fenimore Cooper and his American Indian characters, who were far-seeing and eagle-eyed. Hawk-eyed. Madame Bovary even uses the phrase: “J'ai vu ça, moi, du premier coup, en entrant. J'ai l'oeil americain,” which my beginning French translates as  “I have seen this, myself, the first blow is incoming. I have the American eye.” 

I wonder if the phrase is still in use? Doubtful. America has come to mean something besides Indians in forests. More to the point, that American eye, in recent years, has become awfully myopic. It hasn't seen shit.


Posted at 08:10 AM on Thu. Apr 24, 2008 in category Movies - Foreign, Culture  
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COMMENTS

Scott Ellington wrote:

I come, not to disagree, but to reinforce your final paragraph. Last night I stumbled over the last 20 minutes of this:

http://www.kqed.org/program...

piece of vile propaganda in which several retired former child-actors pined nostalgically for the halcyon days of moral order represented by <i>Leave It To Beaver</i>, <i>My Three Sons</i> and <i>Lost in Space</i>...in which they, themselves, appeared. Serious nauseated, I trudged on clear to the end, realizing that I truly believe in the gradual awakening of American eyes that are more than hungry for the very variety of transparency that must eventually detect and check the obscure excesses of organizations like the AMPTP, Camcast, NewsCorp...because they just can't stop flinging it.
Comment posted on Fri. Apr 25, 2008 at 04:47 PM

Scott Ellington wrote:

"In 1613. the Jesuits began publishing their Jesuit Relations, which were immensly popular in France; and profits from the books helped promote the work of the Jesuit order" (in the New World) "spurring the priests to keep sending reports"..."the Jesuits brought the stories about adventures with Indians to France in great detail and complexity...Some Jesuit writers elaborated on the theme of the 'noble savage', and pointed to numerous advantages of Indian life, including example of the freedom of the individual. In general, the Jesuit writings helped to inform a growing intellectual movement in France that would build upon the ideals of egalitarianism and the dignity of the individual."
In its first essay, Oren Lyons (writing in Exiled in the Land of the Free) identifies the Baron de Lahontan, whose New Voyages to North America (1693) was for decades one of the most important works on North America; more of the noble savage schtick, with emphasis on impolitic honesty.

"Missing from the accounts (of European and Euro-American historians) is the story of how egalitarian American Indian societies stimulated the thinking of European philosophers of the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that provided American colonists with some of the foundations for their rebillion against the English monarchy."
--Lyons
Comment posted on Fri. May 09, 2008 at 09:16 PM

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