Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind

Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind

Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind

Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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 such criticism alive in America.

For when Savagism first appeared (in 1953, as The Savages of America: A Study of the Indian and the Idea of Civilization), there was very little literary interest in broad, historical studies of ideology and discourse. By discursive studies, I mean inquiries which, recognizing that all speech and writing are social as well as individual, inquire into how meanings are socially produced in any specific historical period. Ideological studies—I take, here, Terry Eagleton’s recent statement as a useful working definition—are those that consider “the ways in which what we say and believe connects with the power-structure and power-relations of the society we live in.” Such studies, as I have said, were hardly prominent in American criticism of the 1950s, a time when the dominant mode of study was that of the New Criticism which insisted upon an “intrinsic,” essentially formalist critique of literature, one that located literary meaning not in the social practices—speech and writing among them—of everyday life, but in the “tensions,” ironies, and paradoxes of language within “the poem itself”—poetry, inevitably, far more than any other kind of text, most

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis, 1983), p. 14.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.