In the history of American literature, James Fenimore Cooper played a substantial role in the development of American fiction and the American character (McWilliams 20-21). During his own time, Cooper influenced public opinion on many important political issues, especially those relating to the Native Americans, and especially the Indian Removal controversy of the 1830s (McWilliams 84). Of all of his writings, however, The Last of the Mohicans, 1826, second of the Leatherstocking series, had and continues to have the greatest impact.
TLOTM--never out of print, translated into almost every major language, the subject of four movies--is simply a novel that "everyone knows something about, even if one has not read it" (McWilliams 11-12). In short, TLOTM is an American myth, an American myth that is especially important in the way that it represents Native Americans and the American landscape.
It is this conception of the American landscape as an influential figure, a virtual character in Cooper's work, that interests me. "The trees, the greenery, and nature generally play as much a starring role in Mohicans as any of the main characters . . . depicted as wild, magnificent, uncontrollable" (Barker & Sabin 25). America--a land to conquer. A land in need of settling. In many ways, the Native Americans were seen as a part of that landscape, "more or less inconvenient aspects of geography," the good Indians facilitating white progress, the bad impeding it (Bercovitch 166). Nowhere is this conception of the Native American as a part of the American landscape as important to building the character of America as it is in Cooper's TLOTM. Here, Cooper ill...
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... of Things: the Isolated Figure in the American Landscape of Cole and Bryant." Views of American Landscapes. Ed. Mick Gigley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.
McWilliams, John. The Last of the Mohicans: Civil Savagery and Savage Civility. New York: Twayne, 1995.
Nevius, Blake. Cooper's Landscapes: An Essay on the Picturesque Vision. Berkeley: U of California P, 1976.
Parry, Ellwood C. The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1984.
Powell, Earl A. Thomas Cole. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990.
Ringe, Donald A. James Fenimore Cooper. Boston: Twayne, 1988.
Slotkin, Richard. Introduction. The Last of the Mohicans. By James Fenimore Cooper. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Wolf, Bryan J. "A Grammar of the Sublime, or Intertextuality Triumphant in Church, Turner, and Cole." New Literary History 16.2 (1985): 321-41.
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