"Spectacles of a Mangle King": Power and the Body in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko
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I read Oronooko for an English Literature survey course, English 211. I was assigned to present some ideas about the novel, and what I presented were the ideas that turned into the paper. I was fascinated by the idea of Oronooko cutting himself off from his body by inflicting physical harm on himself, and Elaine Scarry's book, The Body in Pain, helped me to develop my ideas on this subject. I really enjoyed the process of writing this paper, because so little has been written on this novel, which is so full of intriguing possibilities. From Arnold Sanders: Katelyn Dix studied Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Or the Royal Slave (1688) in English 211(“Beowulf to Dryden”). Katelyn realized Oroonoko’s refusal to answer to his slave name (“Caesar”) linguistically paralleled his self-mutilation when he found himself cornered by a mob. In both, he “cuts off” that by which slave owners sought to possess him. Her intellectual leap was using Scarry’s The Body in Pain and a study of abused female self-mutilators to connect the dying slave-prince’s agonies with those of modern women who attack their abusers’ powers by wounding bodies their abusers covet. I believe Katelyn is the first Behn scholar to see this.