All-Male Queer Interracial Families in the Wilderness

James Fenimore Cooper Solves His Progeny Problem
  • Chris Packard


James Fenimore Cooper pioneered the use of distinctive American scenes and idioms as central motifs in fiction. Before 1800, popular literature in the United States emulated European fare, often set in far-away places and times. Along with Charles Brockden Brown, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, and Washington Irving, Cooper began describing local scenery, figures in recent memory such as George Washington and John Paul Jones, and the provincial concerns of Anglo-American citizens. His influence on American literary and popular culture is difficult to overstate. With The Pioneers in 1823, he invented the frontiersman as a folk hero, the literary forefather of such popular legends of the nineteenth century as Kit Carson, Deadwood Dick, and Nick of the Woods. Even such twentieth-century icons as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, or the white/Indian partnerships in any number of filmed Westerns from Hollywood, owe their familiarity to Cooper’s originals. With The Pilot in 1824, Cooper invented the sea tale, staking out the literary territory that Melville, Stoddard, and Conrad would later find so productive. Almost any action-adventure story in the 200-year history of the United States—stories of American masculinity triumphing over, well, almost everything—can be traced to Cooper’s two-dozen tales of the sea and the North American wilderness.1 Many of them were best sellers, earning Cooper a fortune and an unprecedented degree of celebrity status in the United States and Europe.


Love Story White Settler Racial Purity Erotic Interest Biracial Identity 


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    Marriage bonds in nineteenth-century America were reserved for an elite group who put much effort into insisting that others practice no marriage rituals at all. Slaves could not marry each other; Native Americans and Mestizos could not marry Anglos, Mormons established a radical outpost in Utah where polygamy was legal, and California was associated with divorce from the moment it was admitted to the Union in 1854. See Glenda Riley’s Building and Breaking Families in the American West (Albuquerque, NM: The University of New Mexico Press, 1996).Google Scholar
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© Chris Packard 2005

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  • Chris Packard

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