STRUCTURE, HISTORY, LANGUAGE, AND TRANSFORMATION IN JAMES FENIMORE COOPER'S "THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS"
The dissertation examines Cooper's novel in four thematic contexts. In the first chapter the novel's elaborate structure is analyzed in terms of the four structural "worlds" which Cooper posits. For instance, the white and Indian worlds of part one and two are set in structural and thematical opposition to each other; in addition, each of these worlds contains another set of self-contained structures. These four sets of structures comprise the four structural worlds of the novel, and each of these "worlds" interpenetrates the other major themes of the novel dealing with history, language, and transformation. The second chapter considers Cooper's concept of history and time in the novel. Cooper is aware that history is often written to justify a particular ideology; he is aware that human history is subjective and that it is often an exercise in distortion--a falsification of historical reality. The fact that Cooper believes in a "historical reality" is considered in conjunction with his criticism of European "distortions" of American history. It is also shown how Cooper "Indianizes" the Christian pattern of the "fall" in order to make the chaos and confusion of Indian history intelligible. This "fall" is linked to white and Indian notions of linear and circular time which Cooper uses to contemplate the meaning of America. The third chapter analyzes Cooper's fiction of language. In the novel there is another version of the "fall"; there is a "fall" of the Indian Ur-language. This results in the fragmentation of the Indian tribes, the splintering of the Indian world and reality which contributes to the chaos and confusion of Indian history. In addition, the injection of European languages, especially English and French, into the semantic space of the Indian world radically transforms the "world" the Indian word had brought into presence. However, in Cooper's fiction of language, the Edenic Delawares still speak an Adamic language in which word and thing are fused. Thus, while Cooper posits a "fall" he simultaneously contrasts the prelapsarian language of the Delawares with the post-lapsarian languages of the French and English. Moreover, Cooper is concerned with a fiction of translation in which the narrator must mediate between the fallen reader and a series of translations within translations in order to consider how anything can be said or written in a fallen world. The final chapter deals with transformation. It reveals how various characters, conventionally thought of as opposites, are "transformed" into one another. The importance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to these transformations is emphasized, and it is suggested that the novel's transformations are strangely similar to the Puritan notion of type and antitype. The novel is then considered in the context of R. W. B. Lewis' The American Adam and Richard Slotkin's Regeneration through Violence. Finally, there is an overview of the dissertation in which it is suggested that the novel can lead to a major reappraisal of Cooper's art and craft.
STEVEN POWERS BLAKEMORE,
"STRUCTURE, HISTORY, LANGUAGE, AND TRANSFORMATION IN JAMES FENIMORE COOPER'S "THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS""
(January 1, 1981).
Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations.