Not quite as strange a topic as one might initially think…
Review: It’s a shame that Vincent Woodard never lived to see this book published. “The Delectable Negro” takes readers through the grisly hidden history of literal and metaphoric cannibalism during the US slavery era. Woodard connects cannibalism and consumption specifically to homoeroticism, both among slave men and the continual threat and perpetration of rape upon slave bodies. It’s a very heavy book, but Woodard sheds light on a context for US slavery that crucially pushes back against modern apologist/revisionist perspectives that fail to recognize the profound violence and dehumanization of chattel slavery.
THE DELECTABLE NEGRO
Scholars of US and transatlantic slavery have largely ignored or dismissed accusations that Black Americans were cannibalized. Vincent Woodard takes the enslaved person’s claims of human consumption seriously, focusing on both the literal starvation of the slave and the tropes of cannibalism on the part of the slaveholder, and further draws attention to the ways in which Blacks experienced their consumption as a fundamentally homoerotic occurrence. The Delectable Negro explores these connections between homoeroticism, cannibalism, and cultures of consumption in the context of American literature and US slave culture.
Utilizing many staples of African American literature and culture, such as the slave narratives of Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass, as well as other less circulated materials like James L. Smith’s slave narrative, runaway slave advertisements, and numerous articles from Black newspapers published in the nineteenth century, Woodard traces the racial assumptions, political aspirations, gender codes, and philosophical frameworks that dictated both European and white American arousal towards Black males and hunger for Black male flesh. Woodard uses these texts to unpack how slaves struggled not only against social consumption, but also against endemic mechanisms of starvation and hunger designed to break them. He concludes with an examination of the controversial chain gang oral sex scene in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, suggesting that even at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, we are still at a loss for language with which to describe Black male hunger within a plantation culture of consumption. (Amazon)
ALSO OF INTEREST
EROTISM: DEATH AND SENSUALITY
by Georges Bataille
Taboo and sacrifice, transgression and language, death and sensuality—Georges Bataille pursues these themes with an original, often startling perspective. He challenges any single discourse on the erotic. The scope of his inquiry ranges from Emily Bronte to Sade, from St. Therese to Claude Levi-Strauss and Dr. Kinsey; and the subjects he covers include prostitution, mythical ecstasy, cruelty, and organized war. Investigating desire prior to and extending beyond the realm of sexuality, he argues that eroticism is “a psychological quest not alien to death.”