Call for Contributions: Of Man Eating Men: Medieval and Early Modern Cannibalism (edited volume)

Call for papers: Edited volume: Of Man Eating Men: Medieval and Early Modern Cannibalism, edited by Sarah Lambert, under consideration with the series Explorations in Medieval Culture (Brill).


The “headline” idea of cannibalism evokes images of depraved killers feasting on the flesh of their victims, Sweeny Todd-style. Modern society has been fascinated by cases of murder that involve ingesting parts of other human beings. However, the word and the concept have a fascinating early history in the medieval world.


Debates around transubstantiation engaged with the idea of theophagy—the cannibalistic consumption of Christ’s body, and the virulent anti-Semitism of the period focused on accusations of the Jewish consumption of Christian blood in an imagined act of blasphemous cannibalism. During periods of famine or siege, people occasionally resorted to cannibalism out of desperation. Dante records literary horror at his invention of the divine punishment of Ugolino della Gherardesca who gnaws upon the head of Archbishop Ruggieri, implying that in starvation, Ugolino may have been driven to cannibalize his sons and grandsons—an act disproven by modern forensic science. There are numerous scenes of cannibalism in medieval and early modern art and narrative. Cannibalism has always existed and is a facet of what it means to be human. It is a universal phenomena that often relates to the primal desire to survive, but can also be an act of veneration and honor, and is still a topic of fierce debate amongst anthropologists and archaeologists today.


This volume examines way that cannibalism served variant and normative functions in the culture of the European middle ages, taking in religious, literary, psychosocial, artistic and historical fields of inquiry; it interrogates distinctions of “reality” and “fiction”, and questions early definitions of the human species as illustrated by discourses of autophagy, “eating the self”.

How to submit: The editor welcomes abstracts of 250 words on any aspect of cannibalism in the medieval or early modern period including, but not limited to, theology, art, literature, history, law, medicine, archaeology, anthropology, psychology and forensics.


Abstracts should include the author’s name, contact details, affiliation, email address and a brief bio, and should be sent to Sarah Lambert: s.lambert@gold.ac.uk

This volume is under consideration with the series Explorations in Medieval Culture (Brill).

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