This essay demonstrates that James Fenimore Cooper was incorporating the language and values of Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) into the "world" of The Last of the Mohicans (1826). In the Enquiry Burke's distinction between the sublime and beautiful centers on traditional distinctions between men and women-an "eternal distinction" that Burke continually underscores. In Mohicans Cooper initially incorporates the beautiful into the sublime, in an intentionally illusive "mix" that corresponds to the illusory mixing of the white and Indian races. He then reinscribes Burke's distinction between the sublime and beautiful as an eternal distinction between whites and Indians-writing "out" the problem of the "Other" (gendered "femininity" and alien, "red" beauty) in a meditation of the significance of culture and race in America. In retrospect, Mohicans is a novel of ambiguous "crosses" and complicitous combinations-a novel of fatal and fruitful mixes comprising a series of covert traces telling a secret story contradicting Cooper's overt, racial ideology. Yet it is this "pristine" ideology that finally overpowers and double-crosses the novel's "other" message. Written in 1826, at a specific historical moment when the Indian tribes were being removed or destroyed, the novel reaffirms a racial ideology tortured with its own historical ambiguities.
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