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.