The Making of Racial Sentiment: Slavery and the Birth of The Frontier Romance
Cambridge University Press, 2006/07/20
The frontier romance, an enormously popular genre of American fiction born in the 1820s, helped redefine 'race' for an emerging national culture. The novels of James Fenimore Cooper, Lydia Maria Child, Catharine Maria Sedgwick and others described the 'races' in terms of emotional rather than physical characteristics. By doing so they produced the idea of 'racial sentiment': the notion that different races feel different things, and feel things differently. Ezra Tawil argues that the novel of white-Indian conflict provided authors and readers with an apt analogy for the problem of slavery. By uncovering the sentimental aspects of the frontier romance, Tawil redraws the lines of influence between the 'Indian novel' of the 1820s and the sentimental novel of slavery, demonstrating how Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin ought to be reconsidered in this light. This study reveals how American literature of the 1820s helped form modern ideas about racial differences.
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American culture American literary Anglo-American antebellum argue Benito Cereno body captivity narrative character Child’s Hobomok conception of race contemporary Cooper and Stowe Cooper’s fiction critical decade define Digby discourse of race domestic frontier romance dominant early frontier romances Everell Fisher’s formation frontier fiction frontier novels frontier romance tradition genre heroine’s historical fiction historical romance human difference human variety Indian question Indian removal Indian-hating just-so stories kind Leslie Fiedler link between race literary racialism literary sentimentalism literature of slavery Magawisca Melville’s mid-century Missouri crisis narrative paradigm natural nineteenth nineteenth-century race novel of slavery period political discourse politics of slavery problem property conflict racial conflict racial difference racial formation racial identity racial ideology racial logic racial science racial sentiment readers Richard Slotkin science or politics scientists Sedgwick Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie sentimental interior sentimental novel sentimental subjectivity story Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s thematic theories truth Uncle Tom’s Cabin visible surface