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TheCanadian Review of Amencan Studies, Volume VIII, Number 2, Fall, 1977 InaudibleMan: The Indian in the Theory and Practice of White Fiction Geoffrey Rans "Indians is remarkably silent, in general, I believe, Sir." J. F. Cooper, The Redskms. "The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did they even succeed in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose with singular felicity; tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality, in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity." de Tocqueville. It ishardly news 1 that, in the fifty years following the Revolution, American intellectualswere asking themselves, and dictating to their audiences, what shapethe national literature would take, and, more urgently, what its proper subject-matter should be. Received opinion established itself upon William Tudor'sPhi Beta Kappa address, published in the North American Review m 1815,which argued eloquently the need for a national literature, affirmed that America had a usable past for literature, and delineated three major areasof interest for those who would write the poetry and romances of America:the pioneers, the Revolutionary war (perhaps not remote enough in time for romance), and, above all, the Indians. While Tudor would find manyobjectors to his hopes in the two decades following, especially in theface of most of the poetry and fiction written according to the prescription ,and despite the fact that Irving, Hawthorne, and Cooper - even after ThePioneers, The Last of the Mahicans, and The Prairie - would continue toexpressdoubts of the possibility of framing a romance at home, Tudor's viewsof 1815 with minor qualifications had a remarkably long life, and remainalmost intact in William Gilmore Simms' influential essays of the 1840's. Tudor's review of Lydia Huntley's Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse (Hartford, I815) urges upon her attention the opportunities afforded by native American themes: theevents that took place on our frontiers, 111 the course of the seventeenth, and beginning ofthe eighteenth century! The contests between the English and French, and the intermixture 104 of their savage allies, the splendour of the epoch in the history of tho~e two peopleat , home, as reflected on their distant contests in Canada; the important part played bythe various Indian tribes, particularly the Six Nations, whose history is abundantly intere~tm 2 the \hare we took as colonists in these events; the vast revolutions that have since happen(j ,unong these different nations; all furnish materials at once interesting and grand.:! All the elements necessary for epic-romance are there: large characters, "romantick adventures," heroic episode and character, a "peculiar fatalit( of history, allied with "the magnificence of the scenery, - the catara~t, in its gigantick magnificence, that might receive all the waterfalls of Europe united, without perceiving the addition; the lakes whose shores for a century and a half, have been rendered illustrious by so many memorable combat~ of different nations, all give dignity to the theme" (NA R, I, 12l). Other~ in the North American Review, like Palfrey and Knapp, would agree, adding the American Revolution as an appropriate subject, and explainmg how "a misty atmosphere" appropriate to romance, the air of legend, is to be attained by the working of fiction upon history, and urging writers not to omit the nation's "barbarian annals" as a source of wonder, legend , and the supernatural: but let us hasten to acquaint ourselves with the earlier native. Let us hasten; - for alre.id\ has the cultivator levelled many a monumental mound, that spoke of more than writing, might preserve. Already arc the lands cleared of their heaven-planted forests, once hallowed by the visits of the Wakou bird, before she ascended into other regions indignant at the approach of a race, who knew not the worship of nature. Already are the hills surmounted and the rocks violated hv the iron hammer, which the Indian regarded with d1~t,rntJ\\l' a~ the harriers of his 'humhle heaven.' And why should not th;sc vast and magmhcent regions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 103-115
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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