Identifying Marks: Race, Gender, and the Marked Body in by Jennifer Putzi

By Jennifer Putzi

What we all know of the marked physique in nineteenth-century American literature and tradition frequently starts with The Scarlet Letter's Hester Prynne and ends with Moby Dick's Queequeg. This learn appears to be like on the presence of marked women and men in a tougher array of canonical and lesser-known works, together with exploration narratives, romances, and frontier novels. Jennifer Putzi exhibits how tattoos, scars, and types can functionality either as stigma and as logo of therapeutic and survival, hence blurring the borderline among the organic and social, the corporeal and spiritual.

Examining such texts as Typee, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Captivity of the Oatman Girls, The Morgesons, Iola Leroy, and Contending Forces, Putzi relates the illustration of the marked physique to major occasions, ideals, or cultural shifts, together with tattooing and captivity, romantic love, the patriarchal family members, and abolition and slavery. Her specific concentration is on either women and men of colour, in addition to white women-in different phrases, our bodies that didn't characterize personhood within the 19th century and therefore by means of their very nature have been gruesome. Complicating the discourse on supplier, strength, and id, those texts show a shockingly complicated array of representations of and responses to the marked body―some which are a fabricated from essentialist wondering race and gender identities and a few that complicate, critique, or maybe insurgent opposed to traditional thought.

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Extra info for Identifying Marks: Race, Gender, and the Marked Body in Nineteenth-Century America

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Yet, as Charles Anderson points out in his book Melville in the South Seas, Melville’s information about the tattoos of Typee women is “slightly inconsistent and somewhat inaccurate” (150). According to Anderson as well as Gell, complete tattooing for all women included the lips, the lobes of the ears, the curve of the shoulder, both hands, both feet, and the legs; apparently there were no distinguishing marks to symbolize either marriage or rank. Indeed, as Melville’s description of men’s tattoos are correct in all particulars, it seems significant that the details of women’s tattoos are so inaccurate in Typee.

A]s the negation of both clothing and modesty, tattoos, even on a European’s skin, were a mark of savagery” (165–66). Yet neither Stratton’s text nor the accompanying illustrations actually address the threat posed by Oatman’s tattoos; the illustrations, in fact, ignore the presence of the tattoos entirely, representing Olive and Mary Ann’s chins and arms as unmarked. Stratton acknowledges the tattoos themselves in his account of Olive Oatman’s captivity but attempts to dictate the way in which they are interpreted by ostensibly presenting the tattooing process from the point of view of Olive herself: We had seen them [tattoo] some of their female children, and we had often conversed with each other about expressing the hope that we should be spared from receiving their marks upon us.

18 Both the Yavapais and the Mohaves are repeatedly represented as dirty, lazy, ignorant, and depraved. At no time during her captivity as depicted by Stratton does Oatman appear to be in danger of losing her white, Christian sense of propriety and adopting a more native way of life. Similarly, given the hostility toward Mormons in the mid-nineteenth century, the potential complication presented by Oatman’s Mormonism is avoided by the complete erasure of the Oatman family’s motivation for emigrating.

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