Date of Degree

2-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor(s)

David S. Reynolds

Hildegard Hoeller

Committee Members

Hildegard Hoeller

Marc Dolan

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Literature | American Studies | Ethnic Studies | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Indigenous Studies | Intellectual History | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Rhetoric | United States History

Keywords

Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Fenimore Cooper, Lydia Maria Child, transatlantic, race science, saxonism

Abstract

Fictions of Whiteness argues that political beliefs preceded and determined the race science theories which nineteenth century American white novelists applied or invoked in their work, the inverse of the current critical consensus. For issues ranging from Indian removal to slavery and Reconstruction, and utilizing theories from of Condorcet, Buffon, Camper, Louis Agassiz, James Pritchard, Johannes Blumenbach, and George Borrow these authors shifted allegiances to divergent race theories between and within works, applied those theories selectively to white, black, and Indians characters, and applied the same scientific race theories to politically divergent rhetorical ends. By analyzing shifting application of different theories of race across an author’s body of work, I conclude that Cooper, long labeled the “first anti-miscegenationist” in American literature, actually came to praise race mixing between whites and Indians as a means of acquiring for whites nativeness in North America, and that Stowe, long associated with the romantic racialist depiction of African American racial character seen in Uncle Tom’s Cabin later came to parse African Americans by their tribal origins in order to depict Mandingo-descended slaves as capable of violent revolt while maintaining a general notion of their non-Mandingo peers as naturally submissive. By comparing the use of a body of related race science theories about the charming inferiority of “exotic” European races, such as gypsies and Italians, and their resemblance to race science ideas about American mulattoes in the works two novelists, I reveal the proslavery Hentz as a feminist chaffing at the patriarchal restrictions of antislavery ideology and Child, long celebrated for her progressive ideas on race, as a firm believer in Saxon supremacism and the most thoroughly versed in transatlantic scientific theories of racial inequality of any novelist of the period. Ultimately, however, the single race science theory that went challenged and was shared by all of these politically diverse white writer was that of Saxon supremacism and the naturalness and rightness of Saxon hegemony in the United States.

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