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Eng 275 Syllabus

Eng 275 Syllabus

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Published by: Colleen Lizzie on Jun 14, 2012
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English 275: You Are Who You Eat:Cannibalistic Thinking in LiteratureColleen E. Kennedy
Rationale for the Course:
Three years ago, I put together a panel for GEMCS (The Groupfor Early Modern Cultural Studies) entitled
Cannibalistic Thinking in Early Modern Texts
inwhich I presented the following paper,
“Oglio del Scoto: Medicinal Cannibalism in Jonson’s
Although there is no explicit 
cannibalism in Jonson’s play—
only allegoricaldepictions of legacy hunters as carrion eaters
there are several references to mummia,the medicinal practice of consuming powdered human skull. Yet, in this moralistic animalfable it is the heroine who actually buys this cannibalistic cure-all. The panel, which alsoincluded papers about 
Titus Andronicus
, Richard Crashaw’s poetry, and Jesuit accounts of 
Native Americans, was a success. Since that time, I have been interested in putting togethera course on cannibalism. I am especially interested in moments where representations andactual practice seem to overlap, a conflation that blurs the boundaries of aesthetics andethics.Survival cannibalism (especially if the consumed are already dead) is often grudginglyaccepted in extreme circumstances
the Donner Party, the Medusa Raft (famously paintedby Théodore Géricault), the English yacht Mignonette, or more recently, the plane crashinvolving the Uruguayan Rugby team in the 1970s. In the United States, we most oftenassociate cannibalism with the most horrific of American serial killers
such as Ed Gein(the inspiration for Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill) and former OSU student,Jeffrey Dahmer. Yet there are other types of cannibalism
such as the mortuaryconsumption of revered family members or even the exocannibalism
of one’s enemies—
that are both more morally ambiguous and yet more ripe for further philosophical inquiry.Cannibalism is familiar to most of us through the fairy tales or Classical myths weencountered as a child
, such as the wicked witch of “Hansel & Gretel” or the sailor
-eatingPolyphemus in
The Odyssey.
It is a popular subject among many of our most studiedwriters: Seneca, Shakespeare, Jonson, Melville, Twain, Swift, and Montaigne. The topic of cannibalism can lead to discussions about larger issues of justice, morality, mortality,aesthetics, revenge, and what it means to be human, especially when considered alongsidekey anthropological, religious, and psychological texts.This course is multidisciplinary, incorporating the cannibalistic texts of major authors withanthropological, religious, and historical accounts of cannibalism, and occasional theory. Inthis course, we will also study films and artistic depictions of cannibalism. This courseshould appeal to a range of students in diverse majors and disciplines.
English 275: You Are Who You Eat:Cannibalistic Thinking in Literature
Class Times:
MW 11:30-1:18
Class Location:
238 Denney Hall
Office hours:
M 1:30-3:30
& by appointment,
461 Denney HallCourse Description:
“I ask whether the mere eating of human flesh so very far exceeds in barbarity that custom
which only a few years since was practiced in enlightened England: a convicted traitor,perhaps a man found guilty of honesty, patriotism, and suchlike heinous crimes, had hishead lopped off with a huge axe, his bowels dragged out and thrown into a fire; while hisbody, carved into four quarters, was with his head exposed upon pikes, and permitted to
rot and fester among the public haunts of men!”—
Herman MelvilleWhat is Cannibalism? Why do people eat people?
Why don’t people eat other people more
often? Why is cannibalism so taboo? Or, is cannibalism even taboo? Are there instances that allow for cannibalism? Why or why not? How do different cultures feel about cannibalism?How is cannibalism related to religion? Or to art? Can cannibalism be funny? What are theaesthetics, ethics, and logistics of cannibalism?Cannibalism is not simply the consumption of human flesh; there are moral, ethical,religious, cultural, and social implications behind every mouthful. We will exploredepictions of cannibalism
some highly stylized and metaphorical, some startlingly real,and many somewhere in-between
in a variety of texts as well as in several films. Thecourse readings move across time and space from familiar European fairy tales to Greco-Roman myths, from Biblical passages to Renaissance drama, and finally to the Americanfrontier. In addition, we will read passages and excerpts from anthropological,psychological, and historical studies of cannibalism. We will also view clips from severalfilms about cannibalism:
(dir. Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991),
Sweeney Todd 
(dir. Tim Burton, 2007),
(dir. Julie Taymor, 1999), and
(dir. AntoniaBird, 1999).
Required Materials:
Thyestes. Six Tragedies.
(Oxford World Classics, 2010) ($10.45/ $13.95)
Shakespeare, William.
Titus Andronicus.
(The Oxford Shakespeare/Oxford WorldClassics, 2008) ($8.20/$10.95)(I will order a copy, but if you already own anannotated
collection of Shakespeare’s plays that will be fine)
King James Version.
(Oxford World Classics, 2008) ($14.20/$18.95) (If youalready own the
of the Bible that will be fine)
All Other Readings Will Be Available Through Carmen. There will also be suggestedreadings for many classes, but these readings are optional and supplementarymeant to enhance your reading.
Course Requirements:
Two Exams 40%
Quizzes 20%
One Paper 25%
Participation 15%Two Exams: 40%Midterm Exam 20%Final Exam (during Exam Week) 20%
Exams may involve one or two pictures that you may have to identify, several key terms,characters, etc. that you will give brief definitions for. You will also have several passagesfrom our readings where you must identify 1. the title, 2. the author (if there is one), 3.culture, and 4. say something intelligent about the text.
Quizzes: 20%
There will be several unscheduled quizzes throughout the quarter. Quizzes will last tenminutes and consist of questions (multiple choice, fill in the blanks, etc.) concerning
day’s readings. If you miss a quiz, you cannot make it up. The lowest quiz
grade will bedropped.
Final Paper: 25%
In class, we will view the 1999 Antonia Bird film
You will write a 6-8 page paper(size 12 Times New Roman font, double spaced, one inch margins) that analyzes thedepictions of cannibalism found in the film. This film brings together different aspectsfrom many of our course readings, so a comparative essay is encouraged. Do not just give a
summary of the film’s plot nor should you just catalogue the similarities between the

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