The Romantic American Male in Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans and Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow
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Masculinity of the Romantic American Male in Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans and Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow
James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans and Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow are valuable examples of literary heavyweights of the Romantic era, but in addition, can also be used to chart sociological changes within the male gender during pre-Romantic and Romantic years.
But because neither Cooper nor Irving’s works should be distanced from their cultural backdrops when considering the socially reflective nature of their work, exploring basic historical conditions surrounding the changing concepts of masculinity can serve as a useful move.
Masculinity is primarily a social construct, a definition that helps us to understand the inherent complexity of an idea or concept that affects half the population at any given time period (Grace 9). But, making sense of this complexity can be problematic. Labeling and classifying should be approached cautiously for fear that the overcomplicating, generalizing or simplifying of gender may occur (10). Mindful of these caveats, we can view classifying devices as a way to analyze historical, social and cultural changes in notions of masculinity.
The “Agrarian Patriarch Period” began around 1630 and lasted until the 1820s (qtd in Grace 10). Before 1800, according to E. Anthony Rotundo in his book American Manhood, those seeking to learn about New Englanders’ ideas of manhood cannot expect to find many documented cases where words such as “manhood” and “masculinity” are used (Rotundo 10). Gender was not a significant issue before 1800, though as Rotundo notes, gender would gain increasing attention in later years (10). “Pe...
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