LITR 480/WGST 479/WGST 592: Studies in Literature and Culture
Cannibalism, Consumerism, and the Cultures of Cruelty
Dr. Abby Coykendall
Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
~ or email for an appointment ~
Literature 480/WGST 479/WGST 592: Studies in Literature and Culture
Special Topic: “Cannibalism, Consumerism, and the Cultures of Cruelty”
In this class, we will investigate an especially horrific yet nonetheless especially intriguing archetype that recurs throughout Western literature, whether that literature be popular, canonical, mythological, or otherwise; namely, cannibalism. From Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” onwards, cannibalism has served as the trope of tropes to epitomize human cruelty. It has also served as the all too literal, all too human(e) justification for massive amounts of brutality and bloodshed via colonization; cannibalism being, of course, the quite contrived reason to exclude those of other races from the human species. Ironically, it is only by abdicating humanity from humanity itself that the West could requisition the souls, bodies, and lands of purported savages and “cannibals” to the colonial settlers in selfish pursuit of them. However, along with excusing flagrant inhumanity within and against humanity itself, cannibalism (or, at least, the allegation of cannibalism) has continued to exert fascination in contemporary (and very trendy) fiction and film, often serving as a salient allegory for the problem of evil. Think of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, the real-life (and much romanticized) Jack the Ripper and Jeffrey Dahmer, as well as countless other dollar dreadfuls and nightly newscasts that unabashedly, yet ambivalently, spotlight the serial killer, the substance abuser, or even the multinational corporation preying indiscriminately on the best and the worst of humankind, all with such cavalier yet calculated an abandon.
Ultimately, whether it be in taking seriously the consumption (or threatened consumption) of babies and pets in fairy tales and children’s literature (“Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Hansel and Gretel,” Alice in Wonderland), or in frankly examining the zombie-esque commodification of culture in twentieth-century theory and cinema (Willy Wonka, Dawn of the Dead, as well as that beloved “opium of the people” Karl Marx), we will consider not only how violent, but also how versatile, this lone trope of cannibalism can be, especially once given the critical, concerted, and creative attention of bibliophiles like ourselves — reading being, no doubt, the one kind of cannibalistic consumption that each of us shares in equal and exorbitant proportion. Along the way, we will ask ourselves a single overriding question, albeit from multiple points of view and in widely differing contexts: how does this trope of cannibalism mediate questions of otherness, the distinctions between flesh and food, animal and human, male and female, civilized and savage, and, most importantly, between “us” and “them.”
books are available at Ned’s bookstore (http://www.nedsbooks.com/emu/;
v Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dover 1993; ISBN # 0486275434)
v H. Rider Haggard, She (Broadview Press 2006; ISBN #1551116472)
v Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (Vintage 1992; ISBN #0394758285)
v Recommended, but Required only for WGST 592: Cannibalism and the Colonial World,
Ed. Barker, Hulme, & Iversen (Cambridge, 1998; ISBN # 052162908X)
Make sure to get the same editions pictured above even if you purchase the books online, where they may be significantly less expensive; otherwise, the differing page numbers will make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to follow along with class discussions. The most reliable way to get the correct edition is to search by ISBN number, a unique fingerprint of sorts for the book.
Most of the required texts are located
online in the
Weekly Homework Assignments
Take-Home Exam I (Mythology, Archetypes, & Children’s Literature)
Take-Home Exam II (Early Modern to Postmodern Cannibal)
Critical Research Essay on Related Topic
Responses are informal written reactions to the materials that we have read, handwritten or typed, on various topics indicated on the schedule. You can turn in late responses for credit, but they will not receive any commentary after the due date. Undergraduate responses must be around 300 words; graduate ones around 400 words. Each response is worth up to 15 points.
Discussion Questions should be challenging yet open ended, encouraging your fellow students to interpret texts in a more nuanced fashion than they might have otherwise. See the Suggestions for Discussion Questions (or the examples of former questions) available in the “Class Handouts” folder of the ER. Different groups of students will compose different kinds of questions on different days, so check the List of Group Assignments to see which group you are in. Bring at least two copies of the questions to class — one copy for me and one copy for other students — perhaps simply by pasting them multiple times on the same page to save paper. Since there is no way to make up this assignment, make sure to do it in a timely fashion. The questions are worth up to 10 points.
In order to encourage critical thinking about the materials, the take-home exams will be question driven as well. Aside from a few short-answer questions on particular points of interest raised during the section, the bulk of the exam will consist of an essay question on a topic of your own selection. In effect, you can write on anything that you like so long as you can cover a certain proportion of the materials. As you read the materials for each section, you should try to keep in mind potential topics to focus on and pursue as a thesis for the essay question, perhaps ones inspired by the discussion questions or class discussions.
on Exam One and Exam
Two will be available week or so before the exam. Undergraduate essay
exams must be at least 1,500 words, graduate essay exams at least 2,400 words,
or roughly 4˝ and 7˝ pages respectively in proper formatting. In addition to writing the additional length,
graduate students must incorporate research, citing at least two scholarly
articles or book chapters not otherwise required as reading. See the Bibliography below, the
supplemental materials in the ER, or simply consult the Cannibalism and the Colonial
World collection for relevant sources.
(Many of the articles on the Bibliography
are available in a folder on reserve at the
The main requirement for the essay is that you critically discuss one of the three major topics of this course: cannibalism, consumerism, or cruelty. (If you are a Women and Gender Studies student, the paper must also have a substantial focus on women or gender.) So long as you do not repeat what you discuss in the take-home exams, you can focus on the primary materials already covered in class (e.g. “Modest Proposal” or Willy Wonka). If you prefer, however, you can focus on materials identified on the Related Literature or Related Films lists below. Indeed, you may be able to discuss other literary or filmic works so long as you consult with me in advance. I strongly recommend dropping by sometime during my office hours to discuss the topics that you want to address in the critical essay. The undergraduate essays must be at least 1,650 words, and the graduate essays must be at least 3,300 words (or roughly 5 and 10 pages respectively). All students must incorporate research. A detailed description of the research requirements will be available at the following address: http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/480/essay.htm.
Plagiarism is a very serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct. Any cheating on the exams or plagiarized writing will automatically result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment, as well as in further disciplinary action from the Student Judicial Services if egregious. The general rule is that if you use three or more words of another writer in a row without enclosing those words in quotation marks and acknowledging your source, you are guilty of plagiarism. Turning in a paper that you wrote for another course for this course, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, also constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU.
See http://www.emich.edu/halle/plagiarism.html for more specific guidelines on plagiarism. With the internet, plagiarism is easy and tempting to do; however, the internet also makes plagiarism that much more easy to catch and document, so do not even think about doing it in this class or elsewhere.
Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion — rather than facts, figures, or memorization — attendance is crucial. After four absences (or, in other words, after missing the equivalent of eight days of class for a regular term), your grade will start being reduced by a full letter grade: that is, the fifth class missed will turn a final grade of an A into a B; the sixth, an A into a C; and so on. These four absences are for emergencies, so make sure to conserve them for the end of the term when you may become ill or have other extenuating circumstances. If you are absent from class, contact another student to fill you in. If you have fallen behind in the reading or have been absent for an extended amount of time, however, please feel free to come see me during my office hours so that I can help you to get back on schedule. Leaving halfway through a class period or arriving halfway into one each count as half an absence. Please do not distract other students by walking in or out of class unnecessarily, or by answering your cell phone or chitchatting during it. There will be 10-minute breaks midway through each class period when you can attend to personal business.
Section One: Cannibal Myth & Mythology
Thursday, July 6: Course and Topic Introduction
Watch Surprise Film (118 min)
Test Film with Conjectures
Tuesday, July 11: Student Introductions;
Discuss Film, Responses, &
Literature: Homer, Odyssey, Book IX [7 pgs.]
Old and New Testament, Selections [3 pgs.]
*Optional: Hesiod, Theogony, Selections [4 pgs.]
Theorists: Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo, Selections [20 pgs.]
Claude Lévi-Straus, Tristes Tropiques, Selections [4 pgs.]
*Optional: Lévi-Straus, Raw and the Cooked, Selections [2 pgs.]
*Optional: Maggie Kilgour, From Communion to Cannibalism [6 pgs.]
Artworks: Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children (1824)
Fra Angelico, Last Judgment (1432-35)
*Recommended Film: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (Dir. Peter Greenaway, 1989)
HOMEWORK: Pick one quote from Freud, paraphrase it, critically discuss it, and apply those ideas to one of the literary or artistic works. See Guidelines on Responses above. NOTE: All homework is due on the day that it is listed.
Section Two: Animal and Monster Archetypes in Children’s Literature
Thursday, July 13: Discuss recurring images of violence in children’s literature; student discussion questions
Literature: Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood” [4 pgs.]
Brothers Grimm, “Hansel and Gretel” [8 pgs.]
*Optional: Andrew Lang, “Jack and the Beanstalk” [4 pgs.]
Theorists: © Marina Warner, “The Child in the Jaws of the Story” [10 pgs.]
Artworks: *Recommended Film: Freeway (Dir. Matthew Bright, 1996)
HOMEWORK: If you are in Groups 1-2, write a discussion question on the stories of Perrault (Group 1) or Grimm (Group 2), bringing two copies to class. (See Guidelines on Questions above, and the List of Group Assignments: http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/480/groups.htm.) If you are in Groups 3-4, you have no homework for this day other than the reading.
Tuesday, July 18: Discuss animal, human, ethnic, and gendered identity; conspicuous consumption and “taste”; student discussion questions
Literature: Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Ch. IX-XI optional [50+ pgs.]
Theorists: Nancy Armstrong, “Occidental
Artworks: *Recommended Film:
HOMEWORK: If you are in Groups 3-4, write a discussion question on the first half (Group 3) or the second half (Group 4) of the Carroll novella, bringing two copies to class. (See Guidelines on Questions above.) If you are in Groups 1-2, you have no homework for this day other than the reading.
Thursday, July 20: Discuss sadism; “white cannibalism”; the gothic genre; & the feminist reappraisal of the folk tale; Review for Exam One
Literature: Angela Carter, “The Boody Chamber” [34 pgs.]
Theorists: Deborah Root, Cannibal Culture, Selections [12 pgs.]
*Optional: Mary Russo, “Female Grotesques,” Selections [10 pgs.]
*Optional: Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror Selections [4 pgs.]
Artworks: *Recommended Film: Sleepy Hollow (Dir. Tim Burton, 1999)
HOMEWORK: Pick a quote from one of the theorists, paraphrase it, critically discuss it, and apply those ideas to Carter’s short story. (See Guidelines on Responses above.) **If you email the response to me by 4:45 PM on 7/19, I can get it back to you before the exam.
Tuesday, July 25: **TAKE-HOME EXAM ONE DUE**; (See http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/480/exam1.htm); Discuss exam topics in class; Watch portions of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (100 min.)
Section Three: Colonial Context I: The Modern and Early Modern Cannibal
Thursday, July 27: Discuss the problem of evil; cannibalism in the history of ideas; colonialism & imperialism; watch and discuss Edward Said on Orientalism (40 min.)
Literature: Michel de Montaigne, “Of Cannibals,” & Related Quotations [2 pgs.]
Jonathan Swift, “Modest Proposal” [7 pgs.]
H. Rider Haggard, She [Optional reading; just make sure to get to pg. 94 by 8/1]
*Optional: Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Part IV [18 pgs.]
Theorists: Walter Benjamin, “Gloves,” One Way Street [1 pg.]
Edward Said, Orientalism, Selections [4 pgs.]
*Optional: J. M. Coetzee, Lives of the Animals, Selections [25 pgs.]
HOMEWORK: There is no homework other than the reading, so it would be a good idea to start brainstorming for the critical essay, especially by selecting the texts or films that you want to analyze. An identification of the topic that you will be addressing (e.g. a comparison of the latest King Kong film with those preceding it, or a comparison of Alice’s Adventures with Willy Wonka), along with a list of relevant sources, is due by 8/8. (See the Guidelines on the Essay.)
Section Four: Colonial Context II: The Victorian Cannibal
Tuesday, August 1: Discuss boyhood, masculinity, homosociality, the adventure genre, & the “curse” of colonialist discourse; Watch Portions of Robinson Crusoe, time permitting
Literature: H. Rider Haggard, She, Part I [11-26; 35-94]
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Selections [1 pg.]
*Optional: Equiano, Ship Portion of Interesting Narrative [4 pgs.]
Theorists: Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather [14 pgs.]
Artworks: Theodor Galle,
*Recommended Film: She (Dir. Lansing Holden, 1935)
HOMEWORK: If you are in Group 1, write a discussion question on Haggard; if you are in Group 2, write a discussion question on McClintock. All students should continue working on the brief research proposal and the Critical Essay, due 8/8 and 8/25 respectively.
Thursday, August 3: Continue discussing imperial masculinity, the adventure genre, & tropes of empire, comparing and contrasting Victorian ideology with that of earlier periods; begin the femme fatale
Literature: H. Rider Haggard, She, Part II [95-145]
*Optional: Chares Dickens, “Lost Arctic Voyagers,” Household Words [5 pgs.]
Theorists: Elaine Shohat, “Tropes of Empire” [8 pgs.]
Artworks: Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 
Pablo Picasso, Girl before a Mirror 
HOMEWORK: Discuss at least one of the tropes that Shohat mentions, comparing and contrasting how it functions in She with how it functions in another literary or artistic work from Sections 3 or 4. Continue to work on the brief research proposal and the Critical Essay, due 8/8 and 8/25 respectively.
Tuesday, August 8: Discuss Marx; Watch portions of Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978, 128 min.)
Literature: H. Rider Haggard, She, Part III [Optional reading; just make sure to finish the novel by 8/10]
Theorists: Karl Marx, “Meaning of Human Requirements” [5 pgs.]
Karl Marx, “The Working-Day,” Das Capital [1 pg.]
© Crystal Bartolovich, “Consumerism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Cannibalism” [6 pgs.]
*Optional: Horkheimer & Adorno, “Enlightenment as Mass Deception” [7 pgs.]
Artworks: *Optional: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe (1962) & 100
*Optional: Gillray Etchings in Paulson, Representations of Revolution
Thursday, August 10: Conclude discussion of Haggard; the Victorian cannibal; imperialist ideology; modernism & primitivism
Literature: H. Rider Haggard, She, Part IV [146-280]
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep [Optional reading; just make sure to finish the novel by 8/15]
Theorists: Self-Selected Materials from the Broadview Edition
HOMEWORK: Pick one of the materials in the appendix to She to describe, quote from, and apply to the novel during class time. Continue working on the Critical Essay due 8/25.
Section Five: The Postmodern Cannibal
Tuesday, August 15: Discuss Chandler, the postmodern cannibal, detective fiction, & commodity fetishism; and the post-war vixen and the anti-hero
Literature: Read Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, in full [3-231]
Theorists: *Optional: Mary Anne Doane, Femme Fatales [6 pgs.]
*Optional: Karl Marx, “Fetishism of Commodities,” Selections [4 pgs.]
Artworks: Grant Wood, American Gothic (1930)
Cover to Big Sleep (
HOMEWORK: Make a list of at least four significant tropes in The Big Sleep, preferably including the page numbers of where they occur & recur.
Thursday, August 17: Groupwork on Tropes; Watch and Discuss The Big Sleep (116 min.); Begin discussion of the postmodern condition; consumer culture; the serial killer; parody & pastiche; continue discussion of the femme fatale
Theorists: Frederic Jameson, “Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” [6 pgs.]
Artworks: *Optional: Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919)
*Optional: Marcel Duchamp, Given: The Illuminating Gas (1943)
HOMEWORK: No homework other than the brief reading and the Critical Essay (due by 4:30 PM August 25) and the Take-Home Exam Two (due by 10:00 AM August 28). **If you prefer, you can do the exam first, and turn in the essay on the 28th instead.
Tuesday, August 22: Present Critical Essays; Conclude discussion of Chandler; Review for Exam Two
Theorists: © Maggie Kilgour, “The Function of Cannibalism at the Present Time” [8 pgs.]
Artworks: *Recommended Film: Heavenly Creatures (Dir. Peter Jackson, 1994)
HOMEWORK: No homework other than the brief reading and the Critical Essay (due by 4:30 PM August 25) and the Take-Home Exam Two, due by (due by 10:00 AM August 28). Put them under my office door, Pray Harrold 603G, or in my mailbox, Pray Harrold 612, by the due dates, if not before.
Friday, August 25: **CRITICAL ESSAY DUE AT 4:30 PM**
Monday, August 28: **TAKE-HOME EXAM TWO DUE AT 10 AM**
Mario de Andrade, Macunaima
Oswald Andrade, “Cannibal Manifesto” (Anti-Imperialist, Latin Americanist Surrealist Manifesto)
Antonin Artaud, Collected Works
Margaret Atwood, Edible Woman
J. G. Ballard, Crash
Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil
William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch
Poppy Z. Brite, Exquisite Corpse
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
Maryse Condé, Histoire de la femme cannibale
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Andrei Codrescu, The Blood Countess
Michael Crichton, Eaters of the Dead
William Diapea, Cannibal Jack: The
True Autobiography of a White Man in the
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sign of Four
Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”
Thomas Gray, “Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat”
H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines
Thomas Harris, Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Stephan King, Carrie, Cujo, and The Shining
Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
Herman Melville, Moby Dick and Typee
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Edgar Allan Poe, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA98/silverman/poe/frame.html)
Ann Rice, Interview with a Vampire
Marquis de Sade, 120 Days of
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Jules Verne, 20,000 Thousand Leagues under the Sea
Oscar Wilde, Portrait of Dorian Gray
Lu Xun, “Diary of a Madman”
20,000 Thousand Leagues under the Sea, dir. Richard Fleischer
Alien series, dir. Ridley Scott
American History X, dir. Tony Kaye
American Psycho, dir. Mary Harron
The Big Sleep, dir. Howard Hawks
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Film and Television Series)
C.H.U.D. (“Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers”), dir. Douglas Cheek
Crash, Naked Lunch, or any other Cronenberg film
Cronos, dir. Guillermo del Toro
Cujo, dir. Lewis Teague
Delicatessen, dir. Gilles Adrien
Dracula, dir. Francis Ford Coppola / Wes Craven / Todd Browning
Eating Raoul, dir. Paul Bartel
The End of the Spear, dir. Jim Hanon
The Exorcist, dir. William Friedkin
Fight Club, dir. David Fincher
Freeway, dir. Matthew Bright (contemporary adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood)
Frenzy, Rope, Virago, Psycho, Marnie, The Birds, or any other Hitchcock flick
Fried Green Tomatoes, dir. Jon Avnet
Full Metal Jacket,
The Hills Have Eyes, dir. Alexandre Aja or Wes Craven
The Hunger, dir. Tony Scott
Interview with a Vampire, dir. Neil Jordan
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978)
Jack the Ripper, dir. Jess Franco
Jarhead, dir. Sam Mendes
Jaws series, dir. Steven Spielberg
King Kong (1933, 1976, 2005)
Living Dead series, dir. George Romero
No Blade of Grass, dir. Cornel Wilde
Parents, dir. Bob Balaban
Pirates of the Caribbean series, dir. Gore Verbinski
Reefer Madness (1936, 2004)
Rocky Horror Picture Show, dir. Jim Sharman
Seven, dir. David Fincher
The Shining, dir.
Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme
Soylent Green, dir. Richard Fleischer
Suddenly Last Summer, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (written by Tennessee Williams)
Tarzan series, dir. W.S. Van Dyke and Richard Thorpe
The Time Machine (2002, 1960)
The Yes Men, dir. Dan Ollman et. al.
Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of
Adams, Percy. Travelers and Travel Liars, 1660-1800.
Ames, Michael M. Cannibal
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Arens, W. Man Eating
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Brodie, Janet, and Marc Redfield, eds. High
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Bruner, Edward M. “Of Cannibals, Tourists, and Ethnographers.” Cultural Anthropology 4 (1989): 439-46.
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