James Fenimore Cooper Society Website
This page is: http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/introduction.html
What's New, What's Here, and How to Find It
Updated May 2014
Welcome to the Website of the James Fenimore Cooper Society. It is intended for many different kinds of users. It is for readers who have come to enjoy Cooper's works, and wish to expand their knowledge about them. It is for scholars seeking reference materials, hard-to-find texts, and the website's growing library of Cooper criticism. But it also for students approaching Cooper for the first time. This is a growing site, and we welcome comments and suggestions.
Founder & Corresponding
We also welcome questions -- simple as well as advanced; from beginners as well as long-time Cooper fans; from students and readers as well as scholars -- about any aspect of James Fenimore Cooper or Susan Fenimore Cooper. Just send your questions, by this e-mail link, to Ask Fenimore, and I will try to answer them as quickly as possible. No question is "too stupid," and we have a large library of Cooper reference materials to help with more complicated ones. Besides questions relating to Cooper's life and works, we will try to help with questions about Cooper genealogy, or about the origin or value of copies of Cooper's books, that you may own. -- Hugh MacDougall, Corresponding Secretary
An excellent video program on James Fenimore Cooper (recorded April 2001) can be viewed at C-Span American Writers--James Fenimore Cooper. Click on "Watch the Program" and select from the full program, a walking-tour of Cooperstown (guided by me), and other related programs. Fast internet access required.
What's New on the Cooper Society Website?
- (April 2014) Papers from the 2013 Cooper Panels at the American Literature (ALA) Conference placed on line
- (November 2013) The Esmeralda. Story sometimes attributed to Cooper (1829).
- (November 2013) O-i-chee. Story falsely attributed to Cooper (1843).
- (October 2013) Links Page: Books About Cooper: George Davis Morris, Fenimore Cooper et Edgar Poe; d'après la critique française du dix-neuvième siècle (Paris, 1912); Longino, Maranda Mazur Hunter, Action in Fenimore Cooper's tales (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Florida, 1987)
- (October 2013) Call for Papers for Cooper Panels at the May 2014 American Literature Conference in Washington, D.C.
- (July 2013) 22 papers from the 18th 2011 Cooper Conference/Seminar at the State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY-Oneonta) placed on line.
- (June 2013) Papers from the 2011 and 2012 Cooper Panels at the American Literature Assocition (ALA) Conferences placed on line
- (March 2012) Hugh Cooke MacDougall, Cooper's Otsego County Cooperstown: NYSHA 1989. Placed on line with permission from NYSHA. It has been placed in new principal section called "Books on Cooper and Cooperstown", replacing The Cooper Bookshelf" which has been placed in the "About Cooper's Writings" section. Moved into the new "Books on Cooper and Cooperstown" section is JFC (grandson), Legends and Traditions of a Northern County (1921), formerly in the Biographic Information Section.
- (August 2011) Eleven Papers from the 2009 Cooper Seminar/Conference at SUNY Oneonta.
- (August 2011) Additions to the New Books and a (new) Periodicals section of the News, Conferences and Coming Events page.
- (July 2011) Links Page: Articles to three articles (originally published by Syracuse University in 1988, 1989, and 1992) by Constantine Evans:
- (March 2011) Papers from the 2009 and 2010 Cooper Panels at the American Literature Assocition (ALA) Conferences placed on line
- (August 2010) The Thanksgiving Hospital and Orphan House of the Holy Saviour. Brief histories of the two Institutions founded by Susan Fenimore Cooper.
- (May 2010) The Church-Yard Humming Bird An evidently "one time" comic newsletter issued in 1865 by Susan Fenimore Cooper and friends in Cooperstown's Christ Episcopal Church, apparently in connection with a Church fair raising money for a new Church carpet.
- (May 2010) Links Page checked, corrected, and new materials added.
- (March 2010) Teaching Cooper Page updated.
- (February 2010) Harthorn, Steven P. (Williams Baptist College), and others, Finding Lost Cooper Epigraphs. Articles from the Cooper Society Newsletter on tracing elusive Cooper epigraphs. [2010 OTHER PAPERS]
- (February 2010) [Susan Fenimore Cooper], Orphan House of the Holy Saviour. 1875 Official Report on the Orphanage, founded by Susan Fenimore Cooper, with extensive quotations from her. [SUSAN FENIMORE COOPER]
- (February 2010) Schachterle, Lance (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), American Fiction before Cooper Worth Reading. Introduction to eight pre-Cooper novelists: Charles Brockden Brown (Edgar Huntley, etc.), William Hill Brown (The Power of Sympathy), Henry Hugh Brackenridge (Modern Chivalry), Gilbert Imlay (The Emigrants), Royall Tyler (The Algerine Captive), Hannah Webster Foster (Charlotte Temple), Susanna Haswell Rowson (The Coquette), and Tabitha Gilman Tenney (Female Quixotism). [2008 OTHER ARTICLES]
- (February 2010) Bergmann, Frank (Utica College), Kill-deer in the Hands of a German Forty-Eighter: A Cooper Reference in Georg Weerth's Humoristische Skizzen aus dem deutschen Handelsleben. Cooper and Georg Weerth (1822-1856). [2008 OTHER ARTICLES]
- (January 2010) Margaret Gilbert, (Rutgers University), An Arch of Trees. Detailed criticism of Mark Twain's denunciation of the "ark" scene in the early part of Cooper's The Deerslayer. [2010 OTHER ARTICLES]
Return to Top of Page
The site is divided into 14 major categories, which can be reached from here or from the buttons on our home page. Or, for a complete contents of the site, see THE SITE OUTLINE
- What's Here and How To Find It [this page] is devoted to various introductory topics, and a guide to Reading Cooper for Pleasure in the 21st Century.
- Biographic Information is for information about the life of James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
- About Cooper's Writings is for documents about Cooper's 32 novels (including plot summaries) and his other writings; some of these are reference materials intended primarily for students and scholars, but we also include a section of spoofs, parodies, and other humorous commentary on Cooper's writing.
- Texts of Cooper's Works is for on-site texts of otherwise hard-to-find writings by James Fenimore Cooper. Links to Cooper texts on other sites can be found on the Links page.
- Articles & Papers About Cooper is intended as a large and growing Library of published scholarly articles and papers (and eventually even books) about Cooper, from many sources, as well as talks on Cooper for non-academic audiences.
- Bibliography is for lists of of Cooper's works and bibliographies of critical writing about him.
- Books about Cooper and Cooperstown Texts of books relating to Cooper and Cooperstown (other than biographies).
- Cooper in Film, Drama, & Opera is for information on adaptations of Cooper in the performing arts (stage, screen, opera, etc.), including Edward Harris's Cooper on Stage and Cooper on Film.
- Picture Gallery contains pictures of Cooper, illustrations from his works, and other graphic materials.
- Links is for links to information on Cooper, and texts of Cooper works, on other websites.
- Susan Fenimore Cooper is a "mini-site" devoted to the life and works of Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894), James Fenimore Cooper's oldest daughter and a distinguished author and naturalist in her own right.
- Cooper Society & Membership contains information about the James Fenimore Cooper Society, its officers, and an invitation to join us.
- Conferences & Coming Events is for information about upcoming Conferences devoted in whole or in part to Cooper, and other events.
- Finally, Visiting Cooperstown contains information about Cooperstown, New York, where Cooper spent more than half his life and writing career, with links to Museums and other important local sites.
Return to Top of Page
For nearly two centuries, the novels of James Fenimore Cooper have been read by millions of readers all over the world, in English and translated into dozens of foreign languages. To read Cooper with pleasure in the 21st Century requires some understanding of where he was coming from: the patterns of Romance Novels that he helped pioneer in the early 19th century; how the American language and writing styles have changed over the years; and how 19th century novels were intended to be read aloud. That said, Cooper can be read today for his exciting stories, for the window he gives into understanding the American past, and a wise commentator on social and ethical issues that are still important to us. To make the going a bit easier, we suggest you look at our short list of suggestions at Reading Cooper for Pleasure.
Return to Top of Page
Cooper is best known for the five "Leatherstocking Tales", written between 1823 and 1841. They are separate stories, and can be enjoyed individually. Through them all, however, strides the buckskin-clad figure of Natty Bumppo, called "Leatherstocking" by the settlers, and "Deerslayer", "Pathfinder", and "Hawkeye" by his Indian friends. An ungainly but philosophical frontiersman, Leatherstocking is the first truly American hero. His reverence for the wilderness, his skill as scout and marksman, his restlessness and enthusiasm for adventure, his cool courage in the face of death, his belief in fair play for men and chivalry towards women, and even his faithful Indian companion Chingachgook, have been copied by popular American fiction right up to the latest Western, and helped form America's image of itself.
There has long been controversy as to the order in which the Leatherstocking Tales should be read -- in the order that Cooper composed them (as listed below), or in the "chronological" order of Natty Bumppo's fictional life (i.e.: Deerslayer; Mohicans; Pathfinder; Pioneers; Prairie ). We, and probably a majority of serious Cooper readers, recommend the order in which Cooper wrote the books, because the character of Natty Bumppo developed gradually over the some 15 years during which they were composed.
- THE PIONEERS; or, The Sources of the Susquehanna: In 1793 the aging Leatherstocking hunts on the outskirts of the New York frontier village of Templeton (Cooperstown). With his old Indian friend he shelters a mysterious young stranger who has fallen in love with Elizabeth, daughter of the village's founder. The wasteful ways of the rough settlers conflict with Judge Temple's efforts to preserve timber, fish, and game, and Leatherstocking finds the rules of civilization incompatible with his wilderness ways. The Pioneers is America's first eloquent plea for the conservation of natural resources. Cooper drew heavily on memories of early Cooperstown people, places, and scenes in this affectionate portrait of frontier life. [first published in 1823]
- THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS; or, A Narrative of 1757 : The scene is Lake George during the French and Indian War. Leatherstocking (Hawkeye) and his Indian friends Chingachgook and Uncas lead Cora and Alice Munro and their companions into the besieged Fort William Henry, and, after its capture by the French, on an action-packed escape through the war-torn Adirondack wilderness. 
- THE PRAIRIE: A Tale: In 1804 Leatherstocking, now in his eighties, has fled the frontier to the prairies beyond the Mississippi, where roving bands of Pawnees and Sioux fight in an ocean (or desert) of grass that seems to symbolize how man can destroy his environment. Here the old scout saves an expedition seeking to rescue the beautiful Inez Middleton, held captive by Ishmael Bush and his clan of white outlaws. 
- THE PATHFINDER; or, The Inland Sea. Oswego, in 1759, is a remote British outpost on the shore of Lake Ontario. Leatherstocking and his Indian friend aid the besieged garrison and the crew of the warship Scud, and falls in love with Mabel Dunham, the Sergeant's daughter. Cooper drew heavily on his own experience as a U.S. Naval Officer on Lake Ontario before the War of 1812. 
- THE DEERSLAYER; or, The First War Path: The setting is Lake Otsego, the Glimmerglass. It is the same setting as The Pioneers but in 1745 it a placid lake deep in the colonial wilderness. Young Leatherstocking, with his Indian friend Chingachgook, finds his manhood as he faces death and torture to save Hetty and Judith Hutter, and the Indian maiden Wah-ta-Wah, from a band of hostile Indians, and meets the challenge of Judith's love. 
Return to Top of Page
Here are two documents needed for those working on this website:
- The Style Page discussing the styles used for documents on this site, including the appropriate style and link system to use in proposed documents for it. Following these suggestions will make it unnecessary to make major HTML editing changes on documents in order to include them on the website.
- The Site Outline showing the current organization of the website.
- Two external style sheets, following the "cascading style sheet" system, are used for most of the pages on this website, permitting easy changes to the whole site. They are:
- The external style sheet for Documents, and
- The external style sheet for the Home Page and other "category" pages.
- Note: you exit from these "css" pages simply by clicking on "exit" or its equivalent.
Return to Top of Page
Nothing to do with Cooper! But your Correspondence Secretary has long been interested in the works of Isaac Mitchell (1759-1812), best (indeed, only) known for his novel Alonzo and Melissa, in turn famous primarily because of its having been successfully pirated by one Daniel Jackson, Jr. In this section, you will find both a few preliminary words about the life and works of Isaac Mitchell, and the three texts we have discovered: Albert and Eliza (1802); Melville and Phalez (1803); and Alonzo and Melissa (1804).
Return to Top of Page