Chapter

Indigenous Metaphors and the Philosophy of History in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales

Sarah Rivett

in Unscripted America

Published in print October 2017 | ISBN: 9780190492564
Published online November 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190492595 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190492564.003.0009

Series: Oxford Studies in American Literary History

Indigenous Metaphors and the Philosophy of History in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales

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Chapter 8 explores how a fascination with a “native language” emerged in literary circles through a simultaneous indebtedness to traditional British prose and verse forms, and Anglo-American linguistic affiliation with indigenous-language roots. By 1815, the “Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society” would declare this “native language” a uniquely “American idiom” to be discovered on the American continent through the “numerous novel forms” of Indian languages. In his early novels, James Fenimore Cooper seized upon the aesthetic value that could be constructed from Indian languages and from the figure of the noble savage. I show how Cooper’s novels build upon beliefs in the prelapsarian quality of indigenous languages. I argue that the regenerative potential that Cooper’s novels portray as arising from Indian words functions as aesthetic compensation for the violence and repeated violation of treaty agreements that characterized US and Indian relations in the early nineteenth century.

Keywords: James Fenimore Cooper; Leatherstocking Tales; Metaphor; Lenni-Lenape; John Heckewelder

Chapter.  13725 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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