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"Perfectly Whole": Skin and Text in John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam

From: Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 44, Number 1, Fall 2010
pp. 39-56 | 10.1353/ecs.2010.0017



Most commonly associated with the striking engravings by William Blake which embellished its 1796 publication, John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative has much to offer scholars of colonial history and literature beyond this connection. This paper reads Stedman's account of military life in the troubled Dutch colony of Suriname in terms of his fascination with the effects of the turbulent colonial environment on skin. As the point of convergence for social narratives of the body in terms of beauty, feeling, health, and race, skin becomes the motif through which Stedman makes sense of the disease and death which surround him.

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