In the years between the world wars, French intellectuals,
politicians, and military leaders came to see certain
encounters-between human and machine, organic and artificial,
national and international culture-as premonitions of a future that
was alternately unsettling and utopian. Skyscrapers, airplanes, and
gas masks were seen as traces in the present of a future world, its
technologies, and its possible transformations. In Future
Tense, Roxanne Panchasi illuminates both the anxieties and the
hopes of a period when many French people-traumatized by what their
country had already suffered-seemed determined to anticipate and
shape the future.
Future Tense, which features many compelling
illustrations, depicts experts proposing the prosthetic enhancement
of the nation's bodies and homes; architects discussing whether
skyscrapers should be banned from Paris; military strategists
creating a massive fortification network, the Maginot Line; and
French delegates to the League of Nations declaring their
opposition to the artificial international language Esperanto.
Drawing on a wide range of sources, Panchasi explores
representations of the body, the city, and territorial security, as
well as changing understandings of a French civilization many
believed to be threatened by Americanization. Panchasi makes clear
that memories of the past-and even nostalgia for what might be lost
in the future-were crucial features of the culture of anticipation
that emerged in the interwar period.
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