Envisioning Icebergs: Fenimore Cooper, Louis L. Noble, and Frederic E. Church


Roberta Gray Katz (DePaul University)

Presented at the 19ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 2013.

Abstract originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, Papers from the 2013 Cooper Seminar (No. 19), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Steven Harthorn, editor. (p. 17).

Copyright © 2013, James Fenimore Cooper Society and the College at Oneonta.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

In The Sea Lions, or The Lost Sealers (1849), Cooper created an Antarctic setting that had a critical influence on the writing and art of Rev. Louis L. Noble and Frederic E. Church, who journeyed to the subarctic in 1859. Captivated by the real and romantic icebergs described in Cooper’s novel, Noble penned a travelogue, After Icebergs with a Painter (1861), and Church produced drawings, paintings, and prints of these natural phenomena. Making use of The Sea Lions as a bridge to the work of Noble and Church, this paper investigates the natural form, subject, and symbol of the literary and pictorial iceberg. Inspired by arctic exploration and by the imaginative Cooper, Noble and Church gave a sense of the majestic subarctic by their depictions of icebergs, and in doing so, they opened up new and inventive ways of perceiving the glacial world.