Image of the Noble Savage in Literature Criticism: Overviews And Development - Essay

Hayden White (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: White, Hayden. “The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea.” In The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism, edited by Edward Dudley and Maximillian E. Novak, pp. 3-38. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, White examines the history of the Wild Man image throughout history, concluding that the image of the Wild Man as viewed in literature is a criticism of the security and peace-of-mind brought by civilization.]

The subject of these essays is the Wild Man during his age of triumph, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when he was viewed as “the Noble Savage” and...

(The entire section is 16246 words.)

Hayden White (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: White, Hayden. “The Noble Savage: Theme as Fetish.” In First Images of America: The Impact of the New World on the Old, edited by Fredi Chiappelli, pp. 121-35. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

[In the following essay, White discusses the history of the Noble Savage theme, proposing that the concept contains attributes of a fetish in the sense that form is believed to reflect content. White maintains that Europeans not only fetishized native peoples, but fetishized their own culture.]

The theme of the Noble Savage may be one of the few historical topics about which there is nothing more to say. Few of the topoi of eighteenth-century...

(The entire section is 7193 words.)

Gorman Beauchamp (essay date 1981)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Beauchamp, Gorman. “Montaigne, Melville, and the Cannibals”. Arizona Quarterly 37, no. 4 (winter 1981): 293-309.

[In the following essay, Beauchamp examines the use and development of the Noble Savage as a literary device, highlighting the use of the Noble Savage in the writings of Montaigne and Melville.]

From his inception, the Noble Savage has served as a weapon in ideological warfare, a convenient stick figure with which to beat civilized man over his corrupt head. As early as the first Christian century, Tacitus was belaboring his fellow Romans with the image of the simple, brave, virtuous Germani living like noble Stoics all in the wilds beyond the...

(The entire section is 6770 words.)

Ter Ellingson (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellingson, Ter. “The Noble Savage Myth and Travel-Ethnographic Literature.” In The Myth of the Noble Savage, pp. 45-63. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

[In the following essay, Ellingson surveys travel writings throughout history, maintaining that the idea of the Noble Savage was not widely held by the writers of these works or by the general population.]

In the interval between Lescarbot's invention of the Noble Savage concept at the beginning of the seventeenth century and its reemergence as a full-blown myth in the 1850s, the Noble Savage appears to have receded into a state of virtual nonexistence. Although no one could say with...

(The entire section is 8323 words.)