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 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    John Cawelti in The Six Gun Mystique (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1984)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Henry Nash Smith in Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Danhnall Mitchell, “Acts of Intercourse: ‘Miscegenation’ and Three 19th–century American Novels,” American Studies in Scandinavia, 27 (1995): 126–141.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    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
  5. 6.
    Queer theory has generated quite a lot of discussion about the triangulation of desire, but this geometrical structure does not adequately describe the way desire is distributed in The Leather stocking Tales. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990)Google Scholar
  6. Rene Girard’s Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure. Trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975)Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    According to Richard C. Trexler in Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995)Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Richard H. Ballinger, “Origins of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Two Admirals,” American Literature, 20 (March 1948): 24–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 20.
    According to Walter L. Williams’s The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992)Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    Leavy, Barbara Fass. In Search of the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender. New York: New York University Press, 1994.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chris Packard 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Packard

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations