James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Yearsby Wayne Franklin
A definitive new biography of James Fenimore Cooper, early nineteenth century master of American popular fiction American author James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851) has been credited with inventing and popularizing a wide variety of genre fiction, including the Western, the spy novel, the high seas adventure tale, and the Revolutionary War/b>
A definitive new biography of James Fenimore Cooper, early nineteenth century master of American popular fiction American author James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851) has been credited with inventing and popularizing a wide variety of genre fiction, including the Western, the spy novel, the high seas adventure tale, and the Revolutionary War romance. America’s first crusading novelist, Cooper reminds us that literature is not a cloistered art; rather, it ought to be intimately engaged with the world. In this second volume of his definitive biography, Wayne Franklin concentrates on the latter half of Cooper’s life, detailing a period of personal and political controversy, far-ranging international travel, and prolific literary creation. We hear of Cooper’s progressive views on race and slavery, his doubts about American expansionism, and his concern about the future prospects of the American Republic, while observing how his groundbreaking career management paved the way for later novelists to make a living through their writing. Franklin offers readers the most comprehensive portrait to date of this underappreciated American literary icon.
The second volume of a majestic biography covers the 19th-century author's most productive decades.In 1826, Cooper (1789-1851) and his family sailed to Europe, where they traveled for the next seven years before returning to America in 1833. Franklin (English/Univ. of Connecticut; James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years, 2007, etc.) begins his engrossing, sharply perceptive narrative with this sojourn, which proved crucial in shaping Cooper's artistic aims, professional identity, and political views for the next quarter century. Despite recent successes, the author of The Last of the Mohicans, published just before he left America, was never certain that literature was a viable means of support, and Franklin focuses on Cooper's ongoing efforts to manage the complex and often stressful business of writing. He provides a rich personal, cultural, and political context for all of Cooper's work, including plans that never came to fruition. Cooper could be a difficult man—"urbanity is not his forte," one acquaintance remarked—and his opinions on politics and religion incited some virulent responses. A staunch defender of the American republic against European detractors, Cooper evolved into a critic of what he saw as oligarchic values: "money is a bad foundation for power," he announced. While in Europe, wounded by critical attacks in the press, Cooper announced that he was giving up writing fiction entirely. But he did not: he needed the income, Franklin says, and the rhythm of his life revolved around writing. Moreover, he had become so deeply "a fixture of the national imaginary" that his countrymen "would not consent" to his giving up. Prolific and apparently tireless, he incorporated political critique into many of his later novels. Even as the literary marketplace changed, Cooper "remained a vital force." Franklin's erudition is astonishing: his sources afford him an intimacy that is rare in any biography, and yet his voice is modest and even speculative at times. He does not pretend to know more than what is possible. Nevertheless, this is a masterful biography that well deserves to be called definitive. It is unimaginable that any life of Cooper will surpass this fascinating book.
- Yale University Press
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- 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.10(d)
Meet the Author
Wayne Franklin is professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His biography James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title in 2008 by the AAUP and Choice magazine. He lives in Hebron, CT.
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