Abstract

ABSTRACT:

Cannibalism when committed by supposedly civilized white people, to whom I refer as white cannibals, offers profound insight into the history of American periodical illustration during the era of New Imperialism. The discourse surrounding white cannibalism reveals the opportunities and limitations of the pictorial because in the history of serial illustration, this horror is often discussed but almost never shown visually. This periodical and visual culture study focuses on several illustrations of white cannibals, fictional and nonfictional, from Harper's Weekly: Gilbert Gaul's illustrations for James De Mille's posthumously and anonymously serialized A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888) and John A. Randolph's pictorial journalism, "The Remains of the Murdered Men. A Colorado Tragedy" (1874). Images of white cannibals in nineteenth-century periodicals contributed to redefining (and often undermining) ideas of civilization in the West. The House of Harper commissioned illustrators, including Gaul and Randolph, to convey an act that defies description in such a way as to render the unimaginable optically concrete. Illustrators relied on a spectrum of associations tied to race and imperialism to communicate this abomination without lessening its impact or distressing audiences overmuch. A periodical studies and visual culture history of cannibalism pries apart the joined ideas of whitesavagery and savage-civility because in fiction and nonfiction texts alike, white people seem as likely to engage in this atrocity as those labeled by white American audiences as so-called "savages," especially in survival situations.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-4238
Print ISSN
1054-7479
Pages
pp. 134-154
Launched on MUSE
2021-10-23
Open Access
No
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