A healthy reminder that James Fenimore Cooper’s mythicized frontier was seen through the eyes of, and measured against, a...

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JAMES FENIMORE COOPER

SOCIAL HISTORIAN OF THE LANDED GENTRY IN NEW YORK STATE IN HIS LITTLEPAGE NOVELS

Cooper, a librarian, examines the place of the gentry in James Fenimore Cooper’s Littlepage trilogy.

As James Fenimore Cooper (JFC) was born to New York state’s frontier gentry, he brought an insider’s romanticized notion to the role played by that class in the development of colonial and post-colonial society. The author follows the evolution of the landed gentry, from its origins in a quasi-feudal patron system with its fiefdom of fealty and service, through its transformation by the English to landlords and merchants on the lookout for trade, troop provisioning and land speculation—a definite shift from gentleman to businessman—and finally, through class identification and intermarriage, the upper crust fancied themselves as “a group with similar interests and lifestyles like the English landed gentry,” fox hunting and all. Cooper delineates their aristocratic pretensions, their ties to the Episcopalian Church and the Federalists, and their sense of entitlement due to wealth, education and breeding. JFC came out of a tradition that looked with horror upon the hoi polloi exercising political power, and approached his own political responsibilities with “a noblesse oblige attitude of duty.” In the gentry, JFC argued, resided the qualities of bravery and charity, wisdom and honesty, a class that radiated comfort and gentility. Certainly there were exemplars within the gentry who lived up to these standards, but Cooper feels JFC overstates their superiority. The gentry held no divine writ to civilize the great unwashed masses, and they were hardly above self-interest: “In actual fact, the landed gentry’s interests”—namely the production of wheat and enhancement of property value—“dominated their attitudes toward their tenants and their political actions, and much of their culture and education was due to their wealth, and not some inherent good.” Cooper could have used more specific examples of Janus-faced gentry, as well as more examples of the messy republican spirit of the frontier to buttress his argument, though few will quarrel with his class critique of JFC.

A healthy reminder that James Fenimore Cooper’s mythicized frontier was seen through the eyes of, and measured against, a smug aristocracy.

Pub Date: July 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4327-6142-4

Page Count: 54

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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