Archive for June, 2009


Jun 30 2009

The Island Race and American Identity

by at 12:42 pm

I’ve, once again, decided to change my topic for my writing sample. I’m interested in exploring how Americans deal with 18th century scientific scholarship (particularly European scholarship) that emphasizes a difference between the climate of the Americas and Europe. In The Island Race, Kathleen Wilson cites Ben Franklin who claims that colonial Americans are the same race as the English, that Englishness is static–despite their location to a new climate, Americans are still Englishman. Franklin’s assertion is in direct opposition to eighteenth century climatic theory, which claims that physiognomy and behavior are affected by the surrounding climate, thereby making race much more fluid. 

I’m interested in looking at how American authors deal with European naturalists who emphasize American difference via climatic difference (ie: maybe beginning to talk about Volney’s assertion of the heightened electrical compositions, etc…I could use the Kathleen Wilson portion of Dominique’s paper to contextualize some of my arguments, showing how Americans both embrace and resist an othering of themselves). For my writing sample, I plan on looking at Pierre, but this analysis could be expanded, enlightened, developed, etc. by my research on the lightning rod and the paranoia that creates. For that, I would be looking at 2 short stories (Melville’s “The Lightning-Rod Man,” and Twain’s “Political Economy”), which both invoke American paranoia about a heightened electrical environment and the lightning-rod salesman figure, who banks on these fears (hrrrm….personal statement worthy?).

One response so far | Categories: Personal Statement,Thesis,Writing Sample