“E Pluribus Unum: Cooper, Cosmopolis, and American Identity.”
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, writing in the 1770s under the guise of Farmer James, defines the American as an amalgam of all of Europe: men and women who have left behind them “all ancient prejudices and manners” and who have “received new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced.” Using the melting pot metaphor for perhaps the first time, Crevecoeur proclaims, “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.” Fifty years later, in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville affirmed this conception, describing America as “a society formed of all the nations of the world.” However, such optimistic views of cultural mixing were not universally shared. Anglo-centric leaders of the revolution, including Franklin, Hamilton, and Jefferson, feared that foreigners would, in Hamilton’s words, “corrupt the national spirit.” By the 1840s, nativism emerged as a full-blown political movement.
For the 2019 conference, we want to examine Cooper within this tension between native purity and immigrant amalgamation. Sandra M. Gustafson argues that Cooper’s works embody a “republican cosmopolitanism,” with their representations of multi-ethnic communities and his “ideal of multiracial deliberation” in the Leatherstocking novels. We seek papers that address the role of Cooper and his contemporaries in forging an American identity out of the cultural mixture of overlapping empires and immigration. Topics may include (but are not restricted to) the following:
Nativism and Immigration
Slavery in New York
Gender(s) and the Frontier
(Dis)placing Native American Communities
Populism and Democracy
Exploration and Natural History
Social Conflicts in Frontier Communities
Landscape and Community
We are happy to consider any paper that addresses James Fenimore Cooper’s or Susan Fenimore Cooper’s work and their time. Papers should be 8-10 pages (20 minute presentation). Send paper proposals via e-mail to Dr. Roger W. Hecht (email@example.com).
Roger W. Hecht