Jonathan Crimmins, "Nested Inversions: Genre and the Bipartite Form of Herman Melville's Pierre"(pp. 437––464)
This essay tracks the development of the cross-dressing sailor as a character over a series of the early sea fictions of James Fenimore Cooper: The Pilot (1824), The Red Rover (1828), and The Water-Witch (1830). The essay argues that Cooper capitalizes on the figure’s literary pedigree as a means to show the conflicted relation between the character’s sentimental conventions and the ways in which nautical adventure and commercial narratives situate her masquerade in context. Not contained by a sentimental narrative, the cross-dressing sailor emerges as a figure of domestic and national estrangement within these novels. In fact, she exposes a series of complicated familial relations that undermine the domestic plot’s fulfillment in marriage as well as the connection between domestic ideology and the growth of antebellum America’s transatlantic economic systems. By first concealing the familial connections that the adventure plot must uncover in order to realize its nationalist objectives, the figure’s unmasking problematically and ironically functions on the level of character resolution. Her ambivalent return to her gender assignment, along with her connection to mobility and maritime commerce, leaves the consolidation of the family unresolved. She remains outside the domestic sphere undermining the novel’s commitment to the republican family.
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