CFP: [Religion] Cannibalistic Thinking in Early Modern Poetry, Drama, Travel Narratives, and Liturgical Texts: GEMCS

full name / name of organization: 
Colleen Kennedy
contact email: 

Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies (GEMCS) 2008 Conference:
"Appetite, Desire, and Gargantuan Pleasures"
November 20-23, 2008, Philadelphia
Cannibalistic Thinking in Early Modern Poetry, Drama, Travel Narratives,
and Liturgical Texts
“I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than eating him dead”
                        â€" Michel de Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals”

The popularity of cannibalism as a topic in essays and in literary and
dramatic representation is reflected in the quantity and variation of early
modern works that deal with the topic. While the Brazilians Jean de Lery
encounters in his History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil are made all
the more primitive by their cannibalistic practices, Shakespeare’s Titus
invokes a perfect revenge against Tamora in having her eat her children.
Post-colonial scholars and psychoanalysts have long claimed that
cannibalism nearly always parallels with the conqueror’s desire to define
oneself in opposition either the body consumed, or the bodies that consume.
 If the secular concept of cannibalism represents the Englishmen’s
destructive desire to consume other cultures by imagining their social
habits as being less than human, then that idea is made all the more
complex when we consider the practice’s sacred origins.

>From religious and mythological sources such as Ovid’s Philomela, Hesiod’s
Theogony, and the Tantalus myth to the Christian tradition of communion,
early modern Englishmen were becoming increasingly introspective of both
the Catholic concept of transubstantiation and the non-western European
ideologies introduced during the Renaissance. This language of cannibalism
and the ideas associated with it become a rhetoric of difference and it
permeates the English imagination, filtering itself through the period’s
poetry, drama, and essays.

This panel looks to explore the various ways that cannibalism is portrayed
and enacted. Who are “the players” in cannibalism? Who gets to eat whom?
 If cannibalism represents a power struggle, is it confined to a certain
classes, specific ethnic or racial groups, or unique social interactions?
Panelists should consider the various ways that the term cannibalism can be
defined, and the effects those definitions have on the ideologies used to
construct the early modern body.

Panelists may look at cannibalism from any historical or theoretical
perspective, including: religious, feminist, post-colonial, or Marxist
modes of inquiry, amongst others. Suggested texts to consider could include:
        Early modern reinterpretations of Greco-Roman cannibalism myths
        Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
        Essayists writing on encounter or cannibalism specifically
        Metaphysical poetry
        Early travel narratives
        Anticipations of “A Modest Proposal” and Dunciad

Abstracts due July 20th . Presenters, please send your name, complete
mailing address, institutional affiliation, email address, and abstract to
Chris Madson at or Colleen Kennedy at Point your browser to the GEMCS link at

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Received on Thu Jul 03 2008 - 13:38:14 EDT