A history of the spy story


The spy story gradually took shape in the nineteenth century and became a widely popular narrative formula around the time of World War I. The first novel to be entitled The Spy and to have a secret agent as one of its main characters was published by James Fenimore Cooper in 1821, shortly before Cooper began his major series, ‘The Leatherstocking Tales’ with The Pioneers in 1823. Significantly, Cooper explored the possibilities of the spy in literature before he went on to develop the Western. He was apparently fascinated by characters caught in the middle between large opposing forces.” (p.34) “The Spy is not Cooper’s most honored novel; yet as the first literary exploration of liminality, it is underrated….” (p.36)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) John G. Cawelti and Bruce A. Rosenberg (1987) The Spy Story. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London


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