Mohegan Nationhood, Indigenous Correspondence, and Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s Unpopular Aesthetic
This chapter situates popular poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s writings not in the national literary marketplace she is known for mastering but among Mohegan tribal nationhood and its locally grounded forms. During the early nineteenth century, US authors turned to Indian subjects to cultivate a literary aesthetic that relied upon exclusive notions of national identity and sentiment. Encounter brought Sigourney into relation with other forms of fellow feeling than US nationalism, the philosophical discourse of sympathy, and the Christian rhetoric of forgiveness. Mohegan, Cherokee, and Choctaw modes of cultivating fellow feeling contributed to an uncommon aesthetic in Sigourney’s writings that unsettles our understanding of American literary nationalism. Sigourney’s work also serves as a point of connection between Mohegan, Cherokee, and Choctaw nationhood, as Cherokee and Choctaw mission students wrote directly to Sigourney to articulate the necessary ties between land and feeling for their Native communities.
Keywords: Sigourney, Lydia Huntley, Traits of the Aborigines of America, Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since, “The Cherokee Mother”, “The Mohegan Church”, Mohegan Tribe, Mohegan wood-splint baskets, Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha, Zobel, Melissa Tantaquidgeon, Brown, David
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