The American Abraham : James Fenimore Cooper and the Frontier Patriarch
(Warren Motley (Author)
In this book Warren Motley offers an original interpretation of James Fenimore Cooper's career. Whereas most studies of Cooper have centered on the figure of the Leatherstocking - that solitary model of the self-sufficient American hero untrammeled by civilization - this book examines Cooper's interest in the pioneer patriarchs who built new societies in the wilderness. Throughout his career Cooper explored an essential American problem: how to achieve the right balance between freedom and authority. He did this by retelling the story of the frontier settlement and thereby assessing its successes and failures. Like other writers in the decades before the Civil War, Cooper struggled with the legacy of the Revolutionary fathers - a legacy made more personal in Cooper's case by his father's role as a frontier land developer, judge, and Federalist politician. This book breaks new ground by relating Cooper's artistic development, and his ideas about authority in society, to his efforts to become independent of his father. Motley traces Cooper's preoccupation with authority from his youthful letters, through the troubled decade that preceded his decision to be a writer, and on to his studies of American history at its different stages in such books as The Wept of Wisb-Ton-Wish, Satanstoe, The Pioneers, The Prairie, and The Crater. By making his fiction into a series of imaginative negotiations with authority, Cooper offered a radical re-presentation of American history and frontier settlement. This view acknowledged the achievement of the nation's founders while at the same time expressing Cooper's independent vision and establishing him in the role of a founder as the nation's first major novelist. In Cooper's fiction, the future of American society ultimately rests not with the Leatherstocking and his fictional progeny but with the American Abraham.
William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic
(Alan Taylor, Jane Garrett (Editor)
In 1786 William Cooper, determined to become a self-made gentleman of substance in post-revolutionary America, founded Cooperstown, N.Y., through a dodgy land deal. His town rose to become county seat, and Cooper became a judge and then a congressman. He lost most of the prestige he earned later, when he overstretched himself, and his local patronage weakened when he backed the Federalists against the victorious Republicans. Nonetheless, his son, James Fenimore Cooper, the early 19th century's best-selling novelist, wrote essentially a justification of his father in his third novel, The Pioneers (1823). Taylor's book--a combination of biography, personal history, social history, literary exegesis and analysis of father-son dynamics--charts the interplay between the fact and the fiction of the days when upstate New York was the frontier. William Cooper's Town won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for history.