Francis Parkman's grotesque body: Disease, disgust and desire in The Oregon Trail

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This essay applies Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin's concepts of carnival and grotesque realism to Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail. Tracing a journey from the civilized east to the uncivilized west, Parkman's narrative expresses a simultaneous fear and fascination towards the Otherness he encounters (and, indeed, constructs) that leads finally to the hybrid carnivalising of his own body. These deep-seated ambivalences in the west ultimately reveal much broader anxieties over social disorder prevalent in the urban east.

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