Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Cooper, James Fenimore (1789–1851)
Author:
Stein, Jennifer J.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Influenced by Long Island, as was Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper was an American prose writer best known for The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Deerslayer (1841). Although Whitman did not consider Cooper an influence, he did read many of Cooper's works, admiring in particular The Red Rover (1827), a swashbuckling romance.

Cooper, like Whitman, used the sea as an image throughout his work. However, Cooper differed from Whitman in his treatment of nature. Cooper regarded nature as a fixed object to be observed (see Peck 28), while Whitman viewed it as a mutable entity to be experienced. Cooper's largely conservative social and political views also contrasted sharply with Whitman's. Nevertheless, in the writing of fiction, Whitman at times revealed an indebtedness to Cooper, in both "theme and manner" (Kaplan 117).

Bibliography

Berbrich, Joan D. Three Voices from Paumanok: The Influence of Long Island on James Fenimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant, and Walt Whitman. Port Washington, N.Y.: Friedman, 1969.

Kaplan, Justin. Walt Whitman: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.

Peck, H. Daniel. A World by Itself: The Pastoral Moment in Cooper's Fiction. New Haven: Yale UP, 1977.


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