Race: You’ll Know It When You Feel It

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Go looking for references to race in Emerson’s work and you will find them embedded in a geography that is, by turns, regional, national, and global. New Englanders are representative of the A merican race; t he greatest qua lit ies of the A merican race are properly understood as products of English heritage; and to describe Englishness requires an atlas large enough to encompass the Saxons, the Normans, the Celts, the Goths, and the Romans. Even a relatively shallow pass through Emerson’s writings yields enough evidence to confirm Lawrence Buell’s observation that “he generally thought more in terms of place than race” (Emerson, 272). Something similar could be said of Du Bois who, in his 1897 essay “The Conservation of Races,” wrote:

We find upon the world’s stage today eight distinctly differentiated races, in the sense in which History tells us the word must be used. They are, the Slavs of eastern Europe, the English of Great Britain and America, the Romance nations of Southern and Western Europe, the Negroes of Africa and America, the Semitic people of Western Asia and Northern Africa, the Hindoos of Central Asia and the Mongolians of Eastern Asia There are, of course, other minor race groups, as the American Indians, the Esquimaux and the South Sea Islanders; these larger races, too, are far from homogeneous; the Slav includes the Czech, the Magyar, the Pole and the Russian; the Teuton includes the German, the Scandinavian and the Dutch; the English include the scotch, the Irish and the conglomerate American. Under Romance nations the widely-differing Frenchman, Italian, Sicilian and Spaniard are comprehended. The term Negro is, perhaps, the most indefinite of al, combining the Mulattoes and Zamboes of America and the Egyptians, Bantus and Bushmen of Africa. Among the Hindoos are traces of widely differing nations, while the great Chinese, Tartar, Corean and Japanese families fall under the one designation — Mongolian. (817–818)1


Racial Difference Affective Response English Heritage Slave State Double Consciousness 
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  1. 8.
    Gougeon and Myerson, xv-xvi. See Journals and Misc ellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson (JMN), William H. Gilman et al., eds. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1960–1982, 5: 437Google Scholar

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