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The Last of the RaceThe Growth of a Myth from Milton to Darwin$
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Fiona J. Stafford

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112228.001.0001

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New Ideas of Race: The Last of the Mohicans

New Ideas of Race: The Last of the Mohicans

(p.232) 9 New Ideas of Race: The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Race

Fiona J. Stafford

Oxford University Press

James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans (1826), is an important expression of the myth of the last of the race not merely for its popularity or influence, but because it was the first novel to illustrate the modern concept of race as a divisive issue. The extinction of the Mohicans was conveyed in the novel as a consequence of white settlement; Cooper was expecting a new scientific theory that would greatly impact on nineteenth-century thought: uniformitarianism. In the novel, there is no Apocalypse, since only one race ends; there is also no suggestion of redemption in the ending or the last becoming the first. The Last of the Mohicans was also the first novel to tackle the modern tragedy of extinction, and the emergence and subsequent popularity of a new collective experience is manifested by the its immediate success.

Keywords:   James Fenimore Cooper, race, Mohicans, uniformitarianism, extinction

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