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Abstract

In her article, "Comparativist Interpretations of the Frontier in Early American Fiction and Literary Historiography," Barbara Buchenau points towards problematic processes of selection and narrative positioning at work in historiographical studies when analyzing and synthesizing early American frontier fiction. Apart from selecting only a small number of literary texts from the large pool of frontier fiction, these over-arching narratives tend to reduce the meaning of the literary works selected to those characteristics that are understood to be of importance for the emerging national literature. Concentrating on two novels long excluded from the American canon, Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie (1827) and James Fenimore Cooper's The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), Buchenau argues that even literary histories that aim at a depiction of the diversity characterizing the American literary landscape find it difficult to incorporate novels that either, as in the case of Sedgwick's Hope Leslie, find fault with certain established myths (the American West as virgin land; unsubdued nature as pitiless danger zone), or, as in the case of Cooper's The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, deconstruct both the heroic implications and the perceived optimistic consequences of a mythic metaphor (the frontier's privileging of the survival of the fittest, its suggestion of a glorious national future).

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