This book examines how the South Pacific was represented by explorers, missionaries, travelers, writers and artists between 1767 and 1914. It draws on history, literature, art history, and anthropology in its study of different, often conflicting colonial discourses of the Pacific. Among its themes are the persistent mythmaking around the figure of Cook, the Western obsession with Polynesian sexuality, tattooing, cannibalism and leprosy, the Pacific as a theater for adventure, and as a setting for Europe's displaced fears of its own cultural extinction.
'It is extremely refreshing to encounter work that displays all the lucid, interdisciplinary bounce of cultural theory and is also carefully attentive to historical, geographical and social reality ... a lively discursive account ... in scientific literature, theatre, painting, poetry, history and the novel, in Britain, across to the US and back to the emerging nations of the Pacific ... It is a method that sustains the whole of this marvellous book ... a rich and fascinating index of Pacific images and narratives.' David Hansen, The Australian's Review of Books 'A finely attuned account of the way Europeans represented the Pacific world from Cook to Gauguin ... A masterly survey ... A fascinating account.' Bernard Smith, Australian Book Review