The aim of this article is to analyse James Fenimore Cooper’s linguistic representations in his works with a particular focus on his most famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). In this novel Cooper depicted the typical contradictions of nineteenth-century American society both in the use of his own language and in the representation of Native American languages. In addition, by adding editorial footnotes to his novels, Cooper explained American customs and historical events to his British readers, but at the same time he supported the need to introduce new words in order to give an accurate representation of American reality.The language created by Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans has often been debated by literary critics: many scholars accused Cooper of giving an idealized and romantic image of Native Americans, while others defended the author affirming that his representation was authentic and coherent with the historical period in which he lived. In fact, the way in which languages are presented bears witness to the ideology of the times, as Cooper created a linguistic hierarchy in which the Edenic language of the Delaware is presented as superior to the fallen and corrupt languages of the English and the French. On the other hand, by showing the destruction of Native American languages and cultures and by celebrating English as the only language understood by everyone, he seems to have implicitly suggested that the advancement of an Anglocentric civilization was both advisable and inexorable.
Apr 29, 2021