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America’s EnglandAntebellum Literature and Atlantic Sectionalism$
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Christopher Hanlon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199937585

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937585.001.0001

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Transatlantic Bloodlines and English Traits

Transatlantic Bloodlines and English Traits

(p.17) { 1 } Transatlantic Bloodlines and English Traits
America’s England

Christopher Hanlon

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the process through which northern and southern writers and public intellectuals conceived the struggle between the states as a conflict between two antagonistic racial groups steeped in the blood and ancestry of disparate biological origins. According to a logic emerging over the course of the 1850s and reaching a pitch during the opening years of the Civil War, Caucasian inhabitants of the southern and northern states were descended from the Norman Conquerors of 1066 and their vanquished Saxon subjects. Refracted through this racially polarizing lens, the struggle over slavery became the latest salvo in an “irrepressible conflict” whose roots lay in a centuries-old conflict. Placing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s English Traits (1856) in this context, I show that Emerson engaged such characterizations of English races even as he leveraged from them his vision of an ameliorative racial polity as the hallmark of England and of the United States.

Keywords:   Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), english rraits (1856), transatlantic studies, U.S. antebellum history, whiteness studies, medievalism

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