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Ethnology and EmpireLanguages, Literature, and the Making of the North American Borderlands$
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Robert Gunn

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9781479842582

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479842582.001.0001

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Philologies of Race

Philologies of Race

Ethnological Linguistics and Novelistic Representation

(p.17) 1 Philologies of Race
Ethnology and Empire

Robert Lawrence Gunn

NYU Press

Grounded in close readings of Cooper’s The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans, chapter 1 explores the role of comparative grammar on U.S. debates concerning Native American origins, race, and human kinship in the 1810s and 1820s, and the impacts of those debates on Cooper’s program of American historical fiction. Focusing in particular on the linguistic and cultural theories of Du Ponceau of the American Philosophical Society, Jefferson, Schoolcraft, Schlegel, and Gallatin, this chapter compares etymological and grammatical methods of linguistic study and traces the debt of linguistic thinking to anatomical theories of racial difference propounded by Blumenbach, Cuvier, and Morton. Among other issues, what these areas of concern share in common are problems of representation—how or if language was thought to encode matters of racial difference, issues of non-standard orthography in documenting Native languages—and the manner in which novelistic discourse registers those problems.

Keywords:   comparative grammar, Cooper, Du Ponceau, Gallatin, Blumenbach, etymology, race, orthography, The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans

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