What Lies Beneath the Clothes of Culture: Cannibalism in Fiction

full name / name of organization: 
Panel for ASLE Conference 2015 (Moscow, ID)
contact email: 

What Lies Beneath the Clothes of Culture? Cannibals in Fiction

Call for Presentation Abstracts for organized panel
11th Biennial ASLE Conference, June 23-27, 2015 in Moscow, Idaho
CFP Deadline: November 30, 2014

From ancient Greek myths to 21st century post-apocalyptic novels, cannibalism abounds, forcing us to reconsider easy binaries of self and other or civilized "us" and a savage "them." As Maggie Kilgour argues in From Communion to Cannibalism, incorporation—the most basic example of which is eating—"depends upon and enforces an absolute division between inside and outside; but in the act itself that opposition disappears, dissolving the structure it appears to produce" (4). What, then, when the food being eaten is human flesh?

This panel proposes to examine the various ways literature explores acts of cannibalism to break down notions of absolute difference and articulate the dual fears of anthropophagy: the fear of being cannibalized and the fear of becoming cannibal, the fear of becoming human meat and the fear of eating it. Often considered the demarcation of civilization and barbarism, cannibalism in fact explores the problem of our status as human beings who become hungry: the specter of our common animality. As Simon Estok points out, "Cannibalism is an unambiguously ecocritical issue." One cannot be a cannibal without also being human, and meat cannot be but human flesh to mark the consumer of it "cannibal."

Following the conference theme, then, this panel explores "the importance of experiences that lie beneath (and before and after) the shiny edifices of progress, rationality, and industry […]. to consider what lies beneath us" in terms of culture, definitions of humanity, and what makes us human via explorations of fictional anthropophagy and what those representations mean.

Please see http://www.asle.org/site/conferences/biennial/ for the full conference description and keynote speakers—as it has been in the past, ASLE will be an excellent conference!

Please submit 300-word abstracts of proposed 15-minute presentations to Sarah E. McFarland (mcfarlands@nsula.edu) by November 30, 2014. Questions welcome!