The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Postcolonial Reader

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In The Sign of the Cannibal Geoffrey Sanborn offers a major reassessment of the work of Herman Melville, a definitive history of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, and a provocative contribution to postcolonial theory. These investigations not only explore mid–nineteenth century resistance to the colonial enterprise but argue that Melville, using the discourse on cannibalism to critique colonialism, contributed to the production of resistance.
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0822321181 New book - Sanborn gives us a systematic, lucid, and thoroughly engaging analysis of the colonial response to cannibalism that illuminates the culture while shedding ... new light on Melville's works from Typee to Benito Cereno. ?With a rare precision and insight, Sanborn offers a series of intricate, resonant, and iconoclastic readings of Melville?s texts. The Sign of the Cannibal is incisive, illuminating, and beautifully written.??Samuel Otter, University of California at Berkeley Product Description In The Sign of the Cannibal Geoffrey Sanborn offers a major reassessment of the work of Herman Melville, a definitive history of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, and a provocative contribution to postcolonial theory. These investigations not only explore mid nineteenth century resistance to the colonial enterprise but argue that Melville, using the discourse on cannibalism to critique colonialism, contributed to the production of resistance. Sanborn focuses on the representation ... Read more Show Less

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Overview

In The Sign of the Cannibal Geoffrey Sanborn offers a major reassessment of the work of Herman Melville, a definitive history of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, and a provocative contribution to postcolonial theory. These investigations not only explore mid–nineteenth century resistance to the colonial enterprise but argue that Melville, using the discourse on cannibalism to critique colonialism, contributed to the production of resistance.
Sanborn focuses on the representations of cannibalism in three of Melville’s key texts—Typee, Moby-Dick, and “Benito Cereno.” Drawing on accounts of Pacific voyages from two centuries and virtually the entire corpus of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, he shows how Melville used his narratives to work through the ways in which cannibalism had been understood. In so doing, argues Sanborn, Melville sought to move his readers through stages of possible responses to the phenomenon in order to lead them to consider alternatives to established assumptions and conventions—to understand that in the savage they see primarily their own fear and fascination. Melville thus becomes a narrator of the postcolonial encounter as he uncovers the dynamic of dread and menace that marks the Western construction of the “non-savage” human.
Extending the work of Slavoj Zizek and Homi Bhabha while providing significant new insights into the work of Melville, The Sign of the Cannibal represents a breakthrough for students and scholars of postcolonial theory, American literary history, critical anthropology, race, and masculinity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sanborn gives us a systematic, lucid, and thoroughly engaging analysis of the colonial response to cannibalism that illuminates the culture while shedding new light on Melville’s works from Typee to ‘Benito Cereno.’”—John Bryant, Hofstra University

“With a rare precision and insight, Sanborn offers a series of intricate, resonant, and iconoclastic readings of Melville’s texts. The Sign of the Cannibal is incisive, illuminating, and beautifully written.”—Samuel Otter, University of California at Berkeley

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822321187
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Series: New Americanists Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Sanborn is Assistant Professor of English at Fairfield University.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Preface
Introduction 3
1 In the Wake of the Resolution: The Post-Enlightenment Discourse on Cannibalism 21
2 The Terror of Their Name: Reflections on Typee 75
3 The Aftersight: Moby-Dick and the Spectacle of Savagery 119
4 Walking Shadows: "Benito Cereno" and the Colonial Stage 171
Afterword 201
Notes 209
Works Cited 239
Index 251
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