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Savagism and Civilization

A Study of the Indian and the American Mind

Roy Harvey Pearce

Publication Year: 1988

First published in 1953, revised in 1964, and presented here with a new foreword by Arnold Krupat and new postscript by the author, Roy Harvey Pearce's Savagism and Civilization is a classic in the genre of history of ideas. Examining the political pamphlets, missionaries' reports, anthropologists' accounts, and the drama, poetry, and novels of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Professor Pearce traces the conflict between the idea of the noble savage and the will to Christianize the heathen and appropriate their land, which ended with the near extermination of Native American culure.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v

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pp. vii-xv

The reissue of Roy Harvey Pearce's Savagism and Civilization comes at an especially propitious moment, one in which there is a renewed interest in cultural criticism attentive to discursive and ideological issues. Indeed, it is probably not too much to say that Pearce's book has played some real part in keeping the possibility of ...

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pp. xvii-xxii

This is a book about a belief. I have tried to recount how it was and what it meant for civilized men to believe that in the savage and his destiny there was manifest all that they had long grown away from and yet still had to overcome. Civilized men, of course, believed in themselves; they could survive, ...

PART 1: Antecedents and Origins, 1609–1777

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I: Spirituals and Temporals: The Indian in Colonial Civilization

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pp. 3-49

The Renaissance Englishmen who became Americans were sustained by an idea of order. They were sure, above all, of the existence of an eternal and immutable principle which guaranteed the intelligibility of their relations to each other and to their world and thus made possible their life in society. It was ...

PART 2: The Life and Death of the American Savage, 1777–1851

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II: A Melancholy Fact: The Indian in American Life

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pp. 53-75

Americans who were setting out to make a new society could find a place in it for the Indian only if he would become what they were—settled, steady, civilized. Yet somehow he would not be anything but what he was—roaming, unreliable, savage. So they concluded that they were destined to try to civilize him...

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III: Character and Circumstance: The Idea of Savagism

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pp. 76-104

American double-mindedness about the Indian issued rapidly into a theory of his life—an idea of savagism, as it was called. As all ideas should be, this one was for its time true. That is to say, it consisted of a set of interrelated propositions which held together and made logical sense of all that was known ...

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IV: The Zero of Human Society: The Idea of the Savage

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pp. 105-134

The idea of savagism was at best an hypothesis which called for proof. Proof required first-hand observation and then close analysis, classification, and summing-up of what had been observed. Facts were collected first-hand, recorded, analysed, and conclusions come to. In the end the hypothesis was proved ...

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V: An Impassable Gulf: The Social and Historical Image

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pp. 135-168

Even as all American thinking about the Indian was based, at the very least, on an implicit comparison of savage ana civilized life, a great deal of his thinking about himself was based on explicit comparison of the two. For the American before 1850—a new man, as he felt, making a new world—was obsessed ...

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VI: The Virtues of Nature: The Image in Drama and Poetry

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pp. 169-195

The Indian over whom Americans finally triumphed was he whom they put in their plays, poems, and stories. New-rich in their discovery of the possibility of a national culture, they were certain that they could find the Indian's place in the literature into which that culture was to flower.1 He was part of ...

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VII: Red Gifts and White: The Image in Fiction

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pp. 196-236

We cannot say why the storyteller's image of the Indian did not take shape and meaning as did the dramatist's and the poet's, why novelists and writers of tales did not generally adopt themes and strategies involving the noble savage of drama and poetry. Nor can we say why they did not adopt from the ...

PART 3: Afterthoughts, 1851–

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VIII: After a Century of Dishonor: The Idea of Civilization

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pp. 239-251

In the 1840's, Americans discovered that the West, to which they had consigned the Indian, itself needed the creative hand of civilization. The notion of Removal, of pushing the Indian to the Great Plains, somewhere west of the Mississippi, no longer seemed practicable; for then he would stand between Americans ...

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pp. 253-264

Since its inauspicious beginning, Savagism and Civilization appears gradually to have found its proper readership. Rejected in its beginning by two university presses, it was subsequently accepted for publication by the Johns Hopkins University Press on the condition that its title be changed ("savagism" no longer being a word in...


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pp. 265-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780520908673
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520062276

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 1988