Cannibal Fictions: American Explorations of Colonialism, Race, Gender, and Sexuality

Cannibal Fictions: American Explorations of Colonialism, Race, Gender, and Sexuality

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by Jeff Berglund
     
 

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    Objects of fear and fascination, cannibals have long signified an elemental "otherness," an existence outside the bounds of normalcy. In the American imagination, the figure of the cannibal has evolved tellingly over time, as Jeff Berglund shows in this study encompassing a strikingly eclectic collection of cultural, literary, and cinematic

Overview

    Objects of fear and fascination, cannibals have long signified an elemental "otherness," an existence outside the bounds of normalcy. In the American imagination, the figure of the cannibal has evolved tellingly over time, as Jeff Berglund shows in this study encompassing a strikingly eclectic collection of cultural, literary, and cinematic texts.
    Cannibal Fictions brings together two discrete periods in U.S. history: the years between the Civil War and World War I, the high-water mark in America's imperial presence, and the post-Vietnam era, when the nation was beginning to seriously question its own global agenda. Berglund shows how P. T. Barnum, in a traveling exhibit featuring so-called "Fiji cannibals," served up an alien "other" for popular consumption, while Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Tarzan of the Apes series tapped into similar anxieties about the eruption of foreign elements into a homogeneous culture. Turning to the last decades of the twentieth century, Berglund considers how treatments of cannibalism variously perpetuated or subverted racist, sexist, and homophobic ideologies rooted in earlier times. Fannie Flagg's novel Fried Green Tomatoes invokes cannibalism to new effect, offering an explicit critique of racial, gender, and sexual politics (an element to a large extent suppressed in the movie adaptation). Recurring motifs in contemporary Native American writing suggest how Western expansion has, cannibalistically, laid the seeds of its own destruction. And James Dobson's recent efforts to link the pro-life agenda to allegations of cannibalism in China testify still further to the currency and pervasiveness of this powerful trope.
    By highlighting practices that preclude the many from becoming one, these representations of cannibalism, Berglund argues, call into question the comforting national narrative of e pluribus unum.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this highly original work, Jeff Berglund succeeds in demonstrating how fictive constructions of cannibalism have changed or morphed into different forms or presentations, but always with pernicious cultural overtones and effects. What is particularly original in his approach is the range of cultural texts he analyzes, from P. T. Barnum's exhibition of the so-called 'Fiji cannibals,' to popular fiction and film, to the Internet, to Web sites on abortion."—Douglas A. Noverr, Michigan State University

“Enthusiasm, insight, and engaging detail propel Berglund’s perceptive study.”—ForeWord

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299215903
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
06/29/2006
Series:
Ray and Pat Browne Book Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
252
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Berglund is assistant professor of English at Northern Arizona University.

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Cannibal Fictions: American Explorations of Colonialism, Race, Gender, and Sexuality 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Henry_Berry More than 1 year ago
The assistant professor of English at Northern Arizona U. analyzes how there 'emerged [in American society] a deeply ambivalent discourse, simultaneously estranging and familiarizing the barbaric cannibal.' P. T. Barnum's exhibition of 'Fiji Cannibals' in the 1870s was one of the first coherent, widespread examples of this ambivalence involving fear and fascination with the cannibal. In it, the 'cannibals' were confined and thus tamed for the amusement of the public. Earlier instances of the U.S. European, white public's unsettled feelings about cannibals representing the foreign and wild are seen in works of Melville, Poe, and other pre-Civil War writers. With Edgar Rice Burroughs' turn-of-the-century book 'Tarzan and the Apes,' a white European male becomes a part of the cannibalistic world, and in some ways exceeds even the cannibals in their ferocity and freedom from the restraints of civilization. Generally overlooked aspects of the popular book and movie 'Fried Green Tomatoes' uncover recent dispositions regarding cannibalism and the concept of the other and the repressed it stands for. By analysis of such texts, other media, and aspects of past and modern-day culture, Berglund sheds considerable light on the continual and changing play between the figure of the cannibal without and cannibalistic characteristics, urges, and designs within.