Matthew Redmond, “Living Too Long: Republican Time in Cooper’s Leatherstocking Novels” (pp. 29–55)

This essay first suggests that antebellum America’s cultural imagination was organized around patterns of generational succession unfolding across what I call “republican time,” and then explores the ways that James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels cross-examine and destabilize that pattern. Reading The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), and The Prairie (1827) through the dual lenses of biopolitical criticism and temporality studies, I treat Natty Bumppo, with his stubborn refusal to die or even fully subside into the background of American life, as a friction against the machine of republican time and the idea of steady national progress it implies. With his peculiar perspective on national events, manifesting in a singular use of grammar, Natty’s character opens to Cooper’s readers certain alternative approaches to being in American time. Cooper’s writings thus demonstrate some of the ways that nineteenth-century American historical fiction, far from uncritically celebrating the forces of U.S. expansionism and imperialism, delivers an incisive critique of them.

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