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Literary Primitivism$
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Ben Etherington

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781503602366

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503602366.001.0001

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Primitivism and Philo-primitivism

Primitivism and Philo-primitivism

(p.17) Chapter 2 Primitivism and Philo-primitivism
Literary Primitivism

Ben Etherington

Stanford University Press

Chapter 2 advances the historical side of the argument by drawing a distinction between “philo-primitivism” and “emphatic primitivism.” It finds that the philo-primitivist ideal of the “noble savage” was the product of earlier periods of European colonial expansion when there yet existed social worlds beyond the perimeter of the capitalist world-system. As the “primitive accumulation” of noncapitalist societies accelerated, so the ideal of the primitive became entirely speculative and utopian. Emphatic primitivism’s emergence coincides with the period that political economists at the time labeled “Imperialism,” a concept explored with reference to the work of Rosa Luxemburg in particular. The chapter ends with a discussion of the notion prevalent at this time that the “primitive” was in fact the product of “civilized” sublimation. Other writers and artists discussed include John Dryden, George Catlin, Charles Darwin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Louis Stevenson, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Keywords:   philo-primitivism, noble savage, primitive accumulation, Imperialism, Neil Lazarus, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Rosa Luxemburg, Friedrich Nietzsche

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