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

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, Aug 15, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 256 pages
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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 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.

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Colonial Performances
PT Barnums American Exhibition of Fiji Cannibals 18711873
Literacy Imperialism Race and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes
Postcolonial Transformations
The Cannibal at Home The Secret of Tried Green Tomatoes
Turning Back the Cannibal Indigenous Revisionism in the Late Twentieth Century
Abortion Politics Focus on the Family and US Feminists in Beijing

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Page xi - reputation" HM has is horrible. Think of it! To go down to posterity is bad enough, any way; but to go down as a "man who lived among the cannibals"! When I speak of posterity, in reference to myself, I only mean the babies who will probably be born in the moment immediately ensuing upon my giving up the ghost. I shall go down to some of them, in all likelihood. "Typee" will be given to them, perhaps, with their gingerbread.

About the author (2006)

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

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