Third, while this book does not challenge the views of Cooper's reviewers or modern scholarship concerning Cooper's upper-class characters - their stilted speech and two-dimensional portrayals - it does account for their thematic function.
Author: Donald G. Darnell
Publisher: University of Delaware Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
"In James Fenimore Cooper: Novelist of Manners, Donald Darnell examines manners in fifteen of Cooper's novels, showing the range and vitality of the subject from the author's first novel, Precaution (1820), to his last, The Ways of the Hour (1850). Darnell shows how Cooper's interest in manners manifested itself not only in his lower- and upper-class characters, but also in his recording of their attitudes as well as his own concerning class and social distinctions, birth, breeding, the definition of lady and gentleman - in sum, all the criteria that contribute to and define social differences." "Despite the careful study of manners Cooper made in his fiction, his treatment of the subject has been long neglected and afforded only scant attention by modern scholars. Given the prominence of manners in Cooper's canon, the lack of commentary on the topic is as noteworthy today as it was in the author's lifetime. Other than a passing remark in an 1850 Literary World review of The Ways of the Hour ("Home as Found was written to improve American manners") no contemporary reviewer understood or appreciated Cooper's commitment to the manners theme. This brief mention, however, is illuminating for its accurate identification of a major motive in Cooper's fiction." "Darnell argues three points in this volume, the first being that Cooper is a serious and often didactic writer concerning manners. Even in Cooper's comic scenes the comedy has a social purpose, namely to satirize inappropriate behavior and attitudes. Second, the manners theme, far from being peripheral, is central in Cooper's canon. In works typically considered unconcerned with social matters - The Leather-Stocking Tales, The Spy, The Pilot, and Lionel Lincoln - Cooper integrally relates station, class, and manners as thematic issues to character motivation and dramatic incident. In novels treating the social world (Precaution, Homeward Bound, Home as Found, and the Littlepage trilogy), he displays a wider range as novelist of manners than has heretofore been recognized. Third, while this book does not challenge the views of Cooper's reviewers or modern scholarship concerning Cooper's upper-class characters - their stilted speech and two-dimensional portrayals - it does account for their thematic function. Too often, Darnell warns, the reader may dismiss them and consequently ignore their purpose. For Cooper, they play a serious social role: to stand as repositories of societal value and to instruct by example and admonition."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved