Re-Reading the Early Republic: From Crevecoeur to Cooper

Summer Seminar in the History of the Book
June 18- June 22, 2007
Wayne Franklin
Jeffrey Walker
Lance Schachterle

Illustration by James Hamilton titled 'Appearance of the Trapper to the Emigrants' from  chapter one of James Fenimore Cooper's novel Prairie. Illustration appears in Pages and Pictures, from the writings of James Fenimore Cooper (NY, 1865) "Re-reading the Early Republic" will explore the expansion of the press as an element in American public culture from the end of the Revolution to 1830. This was a period of remarkable growth in both the number and nature of items published and in the role of the press in public life. Paying particular attention to the practices of textual production as these evolved across the five decades, we shall be concerned with three key issues:

1) authorial practices -- how writers conceived and produced their texts as both intellectual constructs and material artifacts;
2) printing and publishing practices -- how texts moved from manuscript to print and then to and through the market; and
3) reading practices -- how books were owned and understood by individual readers, as well as how they were handled in and by the periodical press.

To focus these concerns, we shall look at a trio of examples from the period. The first is provided by the French émigré essayist St. Jean de Crèvecoeur: we shall consider how he wrote and organized Letters from an American Farmer (1782) and its associated texts (both the so called Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America and the "Agricola" papers, as well as the two vastly expanded French "translations" of Letters), and how parts of these texts were re-circulated in the American periodical press. The second example centers on how the various texts penned by members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803-1806 were edited and altered as they began to make their way into print, especially how the key contemporary record of expedition, the 1814 Paul Allen Nicholas Biddle History, shaped immediate public understanding of the Louisiana Territory. The third example centers on the immensely popular fiction of James Fenimore Cooper, whose authorial practices from 1820 to 1830 were experimental both conceptually and in terms of how they were produced for Cooper's growing public in the United States and abroad. This part of the seminar will make special use of the riches in the Antiquarian Society's Cooper collection, including manuscripts of various published works, correspondence with his literary agents and publishers, and other documents. Finally, since all three of these examples from the period have undergone exhaustive re editing in the past thirty years, we shall ask how modern editorial treatment of texts alters the way in which an earlier period is -- and should be -- read and understood. Our primary reading will be Letters from An American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth Century America, ed. Albert E. Stone, Gary E. Moulton's Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (both on-line and the one volume abridgement), and the Cooper edition's version of The Red Rover, ed. by Thomas and Marianne Philbrick.

More information on the seminar was published in the July 2007 issue of The Book.

About the Faculty

Wayne Franklin, professor of English and American Studies at the University of Connecticut, is the author of several studies of early American literature and culture, including Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers (Chicago, 1979) and The New World of James Fenimore Cooper (Chicago, 1982). His editorial experience is extensive; he has edited the pre-1700 section of the Norton Anthology of American Literature since 1990, and is the founding editor of the 25-volume American Land and Life series (Iowa, 1990-present). He has been at work since 1993 on a definitive biography of James Fenimore Cooper, the first volume of which will be published by Yale University Press early in 2007. Wayne Franklin will also deliver the 25th annual James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture on Thursday, June 21, 2007, at 5:30 p.m. His talk, entitled "Financing America's First Literary Boom," is based upon his forthcoming book, James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years, which will be published by Yale University Press in May, 2007. Further details about the Wiggins lecture will be available in the spring.

Lance Schachterle is Associate Provost at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His work as a Cooper scholar includes co-editing the CSE-approved scholarly texts of The Pioneers (1980), The Deerslayer (1987), and The Spy (2002), as well as several articles on textual issues in all three books. In 2002, Schachterle succeeded Kay Seymour House as Editor-in-Chief of "The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper," in which role he created a Web site ( and is arranging for publication of several more volumes. He is currently working with James Sappenfield and Barbara Bordalejo on a digitial edition of The Bravo. Recent publications include "Prospects for the Study of James Fenimore Cooper," RALS 30 (2006) and "A Long False Start: The Rejected Chapters of Cooper's 'The Bravo' (1831)," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 115 (2006).

Jeffrey Walker, Associate Professor of English at Oklahoma State University, teaches courses in American literature, textual editing, and film. He has published a critical study of the Revolutionary War poet and traitor Benjamin Church (1982); authored essays on undergraduate literary culture in eighteenth-century America; co-edited (with Lance Schachterle and James Elliott) the CSE edition of The Spy (2002); edited a collection of nineteen essays Reading Cooper, Teaching Cooper (2007). He is completing an edition of Cooper's unpublished letters and preparing a collection of new essays on the Leather-Stocking Tales. With Matthew Sivils, he has started a new journal for the period, Literature in the Early American Republic, whose inaugural issue is scheduled to appear in 2008. A senior Fulbright lecturer in Norway and Belgium, he has won awards for outstanding graduate teaching and graduate student mentoring.

David Whitesell joined AAS last summer as Curator of Books, before which he was Rare Book Cataloger at Harvard University's Houghton Library. Since 1998 he has taught descriptive bibliography at the University of Virginia's Rare Book School, and he is presently Secretary of the Bibliographical Society of America. His wide-ranging publications in bibliography, book history, and textual studies include First Supplement to James E. Walsh's Catalogue of the Fifteenth-Century Printed Books in the Harvard University Library, "Thomas Jefferson and the Book Arts," "Fredson Bowers and the Editing of Spanish Golden-Age Drama," and "Quixotic Typography: Special Letterpress Fonts for Setting Maps and Illustrations." At present he is completing a catalog of the early Harvard College Library volumes which survived the 1764 fire.

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