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By David Morse

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Extra info for American Romanticism: Volume 1: From Cooper to Hawthorne

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What Cooper relishes is space for the individual to carve out his own destiny, as much for Natty Bumppo as for the Skimmer of the Seas. The Leatherstocking Tales occupy a peculiarly important position in Cooper's work, for reasons that are at first sight difficult to understand. Cooper wrote thirty novels, virtually all of which have something to offer to the patient and attentive reader, and it would seem that the preponderate emphasis on Cooper's tales of the American forest constitutes some sort of deformation: the product initially of the preferences and predilections of non-adult readers but later reinforced by the facility with which his hero could be appropriated by American cultural nationalism - a process, of course, to which Cooper would be the very last to object.

In the context of the Congregational Church Beecher was a relatively progressive figure in that he was prepared to soften the harshness of its teaching on human depravity and on the restriction of salvation to only a small elect; he was also prepared to adopt the melodramatic, revivalist style of preaching which to many was an anathema. Yet at the same time Beecher was utterly opposed to the more optimistic and humanistic Unitarian faith, which, following its capture of Harvard College in 1805, was becoming increasingly dominant and which he was summoned to the Hanover Street church in Boston to combat.

Birch's sufferings are the sufferings of America. His home, the only inhabited building on neutral ground, is burnt to the ground and his father dies, yet he attains a new identity as a heroic and dedicated patriot and enjoys a privileged relationship with Washington, the father of his country. Like Christ, Harvey is humiliated, persecuted and despised, and ifhe escapes a hanging by a hair's breadth he lives in constant fear that he has been forsaken and abandoned by God or Washington- the two are so closely identified as to make any discrimination seem pedantic.

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