Racism and the “othering” of aboriginal racial groups have traditionally pervaded American cultural ideology. Aboriginal people have been consistently demonized and misrepresented, especially in terms of their eating habits, as is evident in depictions of indigenous people from antebellum literature. This project looks at the racialization of eating in the following antebellum literary works: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly (1799), and Herman Melville’s Typee (1846). Each of these works are told from the perspective of white, middle-class male narrators who encounter various types of native and/or non-white people. The narrators use strategic diction to depict indigenous people as “savage” and “uncivilized,” and they also characterize natives as being governed by their violent and dangerous appetites. In reality, however, the white narrators are the truly savage and violent people who partake in cannibalism and murder to satiate their own consumerist and power-hungry appetites. In conclusion, white male narrators in antebellum literature demonize the racial “other” in terms of their racialized appetites while justifying their own violent and consumerist actions. This racialization and racism have carried over into American society and continue to shape how aboriginal people are viewed and treated.
Wood, Taylor, "Who are the Savages?: Racialization of Eating and Appetites in Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Brown’s Edgar Huntly, and Melville’s Typee" (2020). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8970.
Literature in English, North America
Racialization, Eating, Aboriginal, Savage, Cannibalism
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
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