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: firstname.lastname@example.org
This volume is under consideration with the series Explorations in Medieval Culture