John Miller1
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  • 1 University of Sheffield
Meat, Cannibalism and Humanity in Paul du Chaillu‘s Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa; or, What Does a Gorilla Hunter Eat for Breakfast?
in Gothic Studies
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The Victorian gorilla was the most Gothic of animals. Described by Western science only in 1847, it was brought spectacularly to public attention in 1861 by the French-American gorilla hunter Paul du Chaillu‘s Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. As du Chaillu described his quest for this ‘hellish dream creature’, his narrative devotes a considerable amount of space to the struggles he endured in obtaining sufficient food. Particularly, du Chaillu is obsessed with meat: how to get it, what species to eat, how, indeed, to avoid being eaten himself. This essay explores the ways in these dietary anxieties become entwined with the monstrous figure of the gorilla, and, most significantly, how du Chaillu‘s narrative destabilises established conceptions of the relation between meat-eating and identity.

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