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James Fenimore Cooper

The New Testament Mythology of James Fenimore Cooper

It is easy to underestimate the significance of James Fenimore Cooper for American literature and American imagination more broadly. To the modern reader his prose appears tedious, his characters shallow, and his plots formulaic. Even when compared with contemporaries he at times appears as a clumsy curiosity: he lacked the wit of Washington Irving or the psychological penetration of Charles Brockden Brown. He did, however, demonstrate an uncanny ability to cater to the sensibilities of an American audience thirsty for cathartic formulas that could elevate the American settler-colonial project to the realm of the mythological—despite festering moral equivocations. Indeed, in Read more