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Walking the Property:

Walking the Property:

Ownership, Space, and the Body in Motion in Edgar Huntly

Chapter:
(p.35) 1 / Walking the Property
Source:
The Body of Property
Author(s):
Chad Luck
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823263004.003.0002

This chapter uncovers in Charles Brockden Brown’s gothic frontier novel a sophisticated engagement with eighteenth-century sensational psychologists, including Locke, Hume, and Condillac. The chapter argues that in the novel’s famous cave sequence, Brown ingeniously narrativizes Condillac’s dictum that “touch teaches vision” and in so doing enacts a subterranean model of spatial orientation that directly evokes the “plenum versus vacuum” debates of Locke and Hume. The novel then links this spatio-sensory exploration to an array of eighteenth-century property laws that focus on the creation of boundary lines. It becomes clear that Brown’s fictional account of settler-Indian violence on the Pennsylvania frontier is designed to imaginatively re-walk the infamous “Walking Purchase” treaty of 1737 in which the Delaware tribe was defrauded of 750,000 acres. In doing so, the novel calls attention to the Native American bodies conveniently erased from the legal and historical record.

Keywords:   Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly, Condillac, Hume, Locke, sense psychology, space, Walking Purchase, Native American

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