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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

The Crisis of American Masculinity in James Fennimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans

James Fennimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans at a time when American masculinity was drastically changing in the wake of the 19th century. Many models of masculinity are presented in the novel, and Cooper manages to cross all cultural and national boundaries through the character of Hawk-eye, who becomes the body onto which he can ascribe the experience of the American man, which has now projected itself through history and into the 21st century. This paper will explore both the social and literal contexts of masculinity, as well as Cooper's models of it like Hawk-eye, through an idea of perceived "crisis" within the male gender as defined by Nina Byam, Bryce Traister, and Judith Butler. Hawk-eye’s gendered performance of his native manhood through his Native American attire is analyzed through the lens of Butler, and the character of Gamut is also analyzed in these terms. This paper will explore how Cooper presents Hawk-eye as a satirical means of saving American masculinity from the emasculation of the industrial future by reverting back to a form of primitive, “savage” manliness in the wake of “crisis.” Byam and Traister present this masculine crisis as having to remain alone in the quest to conquer the “wilderness,” thereby remaining sterile. The paper ultimately seeks to analyze the projected a failed image of the American man throughout the literary past and into the social future is demonstrated both in social attitudes and literary patterns in canonized texts like The Last of the Mohicans.

Presenter: Monica Lloyd (SUNY Brockport) -- mlloy1@brockport.edu
Topic: English - Panel
Location: 216 Hartwell
Time: 11 am (Session II)