try another color:
try another fontsize: 60% 70% 80% 90%

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON SIR RICHARD BURTON: ORIENTALISM, THE CANNIBAL CLUB AND VICTORIAN IDEAS OF SEX, RACE AND GENDER

Author: 
Wallen, John
Credentials: 
Ph.D, Royal Holloway; Assistant Professor D/English, University of Sharjah, UAE

With a commendatory preface by Professor Dane Kennedy, George Washington University, author of the highly regarded Burton study : THE HIGHLY CIVILIZED MAN, Harvard University Press

A research monograph on the mid-Victorian rise of Sir Richard Burton, Orientalism and the phenomenon of the Cannibal Club is overdue as, although it has been dealt with superficially many times, there has never been a book length treatment which focuses clearly on the whole arc of its historical development and its relevance to the undercutting of the standard view of the Victorians as almost exclusively prudish and deeply moralistic about sex and pornography. Furthermore, the importance of the Cannibal Club extends beyond the subject of sexuality and into the fields of race and gender. This book length treatment would gives the opportunity to examine the ways in which this secretive men’s club both reflected and helped to create some extreme Victorian ideas about race, sex and gender which, although a background theme to the more acceptable moral righteousness of the period, nevertheless has reverberated with powerful emphasis, even down to the present day. The result of this has been to create an ambiguous, but overlapping, secret place where normally “respectable” citizens might indulge their taste for extreme and elitist views in “deviant” but socially permitted ways.

This is an interest that grew out of Dr. Wallen's research on Richard Burton who was a prominent member and leading light of the club. The Cannibal Club was founded in 1863 and grew out of the split between monogenists and polygenists in the Ethnological Society which had been formed in London in 1843. The monogenists, following Darwin’s lead, believed that man, in spite of certain differences, constituted a single species and they tended towards liberal politics. The polygenists, on the other hand, believed in a multiple genesis of man and were a strongly conservative group with racist tendencies. The victory of the monogenists in the Ethnological Society led James Hunt and Richard Burton to set up a rival organisation called “The Anthropological Society of London” with polygenist theories and a strong belief in the minute collection of data as a means of proving the differences between races. The Society was a supporter of such pseudo-scientific practices as phrenology and the measurement of skull size and shape with craniometers and other instruments of anatomical measurement. During the American Civil War, the Anthropological Society was a strong supporter of the Confederacy and its pro-slavery policies.

An off-shoot of the Anthropological Society was the Cannibal Club which promoted the beliefs of the Society in a more personal and Dionysian way (as with most men’s clubs of the Victorian period, large quantities of alcohol were imbibed during the club’s meetings). The basic idea was that a group of intelligent and intellectually advanced English gentlemen should celebrate their innate superiority over other racial and social groups through the discussion of topics that were normally off-bounds in academic circles. The topics for debate included sex, pornography, religion and race. Prominent members included Hunt, Burton, Swinburne and Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) . The style and tenor of the club’s meetings can be gauged by the fact that its symbol was a mace carved to resemble an African head chewing on a thigh bone. Swinburne even wrote a Cannibal Catechism which was thought of as a kind of club anthem.

“ I believe that a book on Burton and Orientalism and the mid-Victorian Cannibal Club is overdue as, although it has been dealt with superficially many times, there has never been a book length treatment which focuses clearly on the whole arc of its historical development and its relevance to the undercutting of the standard view of the Victorians as almost exclusively prude and moralistic about sex and pornography. Furthermore, the importance of the Cannibal Club extends beyond the subject of sexuality and into the fields of race and gender. A book length treatment gives us the opportunity to examine the ways in which this secretive men’s club both reflected and helped to create some extreme Victorian ideas about race, sex and gender which, although a background theme to the more acceptable moral righteousness of the period, nevertheless has reverberated with powerful emphasis, even down to the present day. The result of this has been to create an ambiguous, but overlapping, secret place where normally “respectable” citizens might indulge their taste for extreme and elitist views in “deviant” but socially permitted ways. “ R.L.Hanna, Georgetown

Market: 
Victorian studies, English Intellectual History 19th c, The Literature of Race and Gender in Victorian England, Historical Anthropology 19c,Political and Social Elites and Empire, Roots of European Racism, Sir Richard Burton, Algernon Swinburne, Lord Houghton, James Hunt, Racial and Cultural Superiority as a pseudo-scientific “fact”, Sex and pornography in mid and late Victorian England, Feminism, Post Colonial literary theory
Release Date: 
January 15th, 2016
ISBN: 
Cloth: 978-1-936320-87-5
Price: 
$79.95
Trim Size: 
6x9
Pages: 
286
Index: 
Yes
Bibliography: 
Yes
Illustrations: 
Yes
CIP: 
Yes
Publisher: 
Academica Press, LLC Box 60728 Cambridge Station Palo Alto, CA 94306
Contact: 
ACADEMICA PRESS, LLC R.H. Redfern-West Director, Academica Press, LLC Maunsel & Co., Publishers (Dublin) Box 60728 Cambridge Station Palo Alto, CA 94306 www.academicapress.com (650) 329-0685
Irish Research Series: 
No