Cultural Reticence and the Cannibal Question

Unspeakable Rites: Cultural Reticence and the Cannibal Question

Claude Rawson

I hope it won’t seem impolite, or as people say these days, inappropriate, in a conference on “Food: Nature and Culture,” to address the question of cannibalism. This is hardly the first thing that most of us think of as food, even if we don’t belong to the group of postcolonial thinkers who think cannibalism doesn’t exist or never existed.(1) We don’t, nowadays, eat each other very often. But let me remind you that special cases occur more or less every year, Jeffrey Dahmer being the best known recent example, though not usually, at least in Western cities, as a tribal practice. When Freud announced that, of the three great prohibited acts, of homicide, incest and cannibalism, the first two were widely practiced in our cities, but cannibalism had been completely eradicated, except as psychic detritus on the analyst’s couch, he was himself caught up in a bit of Freudian resistance. I once quoted Freud’s remarks in a seminar at Berkeley, adding that even in the Bay Area it probably didn’t happen very often. My little joke, as it turned out, wasn’t a joke. A student put up her hand and said that she worked in a lawyer’s office, and yes, they had plenty of homicide and incest … but cannibalism: “only once.”

I will come back to Freud. He was right to the extent that cannibalism obviously wasn’t practiced very often by his patients or his readers, and human flesh isn’t one of our staple foods. But it is a food which, in one way and another, has had a lot to do with “nature,” and even more with “culture,” and it has certainly functioned throughout history as a “marker of identity.” I once saw a newspaper cartoon showing a missionary being boiled in a pot. Around him were the usual flock of natives, whose unspeakable rites around the fire have long been a staple of Western imagination. Near them stood some bottles of 1989 Chateau Lynch-Bages, left open to breathe at jungle temperature. The boiling missionary says: “Now I know these people are savages. They drink red wine with white meat.” He was, we may feel, jumping to conclusions, and his taste in wine may have been simple, though I doubt if these bottles, or any bottles, would go well with that particular dish. If it is the case that we often define people, or cultures, by what they eat, and of course it is, then the cannibal example is not only the most extreme but also, historically, one of the most common and persistent ways of doing it, though the missionary in my story is not the most typical case.

From the time of the Greeks, and down to the present, societies have ascribed cannibalism, or, to use a more strictly accurate word, anthropophagy (the Greek word for man-eating), to other societies, for reasons which range from imperial exploitation to a host of more or less subtle agendas of self-justification or self-definition on the one hand, and defamation of the “other” on the other. The word “cannibal” is itself an illustration of the point. It is not, like “anthropophagy,” a word that signals its own meaning etymologically, and which could not easily mean anything else. Instead, it is a geographical and ethnic term. It points a finger at a particular people, and it dates from 1492.

To be quite specific, we owe the word “cannibal” to Columbus.(2) It is a corruption of the term “Carib,” the name of an Amerindian people from the Caribbean islands and northern South America, which also means “bold” or “fierce” in their language. Columbus’ informants were purportedly a rival indigenous group, the Arawaks. The Arawaks told him the Caribs were man-eaters, enacting a standard scenario of tellers of cannibal tales, in which one tribe (whether itself anthropophagous or not) tends to impute cannibalism to its neighbors. On a wider historical canvas, conquerors and invaders traditionally impute it (whether accurately or not) to those they conquer or invade, or to the domestic mob, or to political enemies.

In one sense, then, “cannibalism” did not exist before 1492. It was invented, or, as postcolonial persons say, “constructed” by Columbus. This isn’t to say that anthropophagy was unknown in the ancient world. It seems always to have existed, or to have been said to have existed, usually in “other” places. One postcolonial scenario, as I suggested, claims that it has always been imputed, but never actually carried out as a tribal practice, and that this imputation is a chronically recurrent lie, with an imperially motivated objective of ethnic defamation. That it was sometimes a lie and usually an intended defamation is demonstrable. That it was sometimes true is also demonstrable by the kind of evidence usually accepted for other historical events: reports and descriptions by witnesses and a variety of archival, anthropological, and journalistic sources. The wish to believe otherwise is partly the product of latter-day political preoccupations, but also reflects an older and more general pattern of denial, in the Freud-related as well as the more ordinary senses of the term, which attaches to the topic in intriguing ways.

When Columbus learned about Caribs, he didn’t know he was in the Caribbean. He thought he had reached the Orient, and entertained the notion that cannibals were warriors of the Great Khan. Another idea was that the term was related to the Latin canis, or dog. There is a traditional association of cannibalism with dogs and wolves, which had a powerful existence in classical times long before the term “cannibal” could provide etymological encouragement.(3) This may seem odd, in view of the contrary notion that dog don’t eat dog, and a common perception that eating one’s own kind, supposedly a reversion to bestiality, is more typical of humans than of other animals. Columbus heard from his interpreters that further to the East were to be found one-eyed ogres and man-eating men with dogs’ muzzles (hombres de un ojo, y otros con hocicos de perros que comian los hombres).(4)

These monsters, which had become staples of travel narrative, ultimately derive from the Cyclopes of the Odyssey and the Cynocephali (dog-heads) reported by Pliny in his Natural History, as well as from more recent travel-writers like Sir John Mandeville and Marco Polo.(5) They are an example of the relentless habit of early voyagers to America and elsewhere of consciously or unconsciously assimilating their discoveries to classical geography, history, and myth: speculations that America might be, or might resemble, the lost Atlantis, or Arcadia, or that Indian languages were derived from, or resembled, Greek, were as widespread in actual as in imaginary or fictitious travel-narratives. The fact that reports of cannibal activity generally evoked classical sources or had some classical coloration has recently been adduced as an argument for thinking them to be wholly fabricated. This would be on a par with arguing, on the same grounds, that South America didn’t exist.

Cannibal accusations, true or false, are usually expressions of xenophobia. I’ll begin with a classical example, the product of a peculiarly exacerbated, even enraged, imperial perspective. It comes from the second century AD, and is by the Roman satirist Juvenal, who is one of the earliest satirists of an imperial metropolis. I don’t mean that he was anti-imperialist. But he wrote about a big city that was the capital of a great empire, full of people from conquered lands in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. He didn’t like it. It was too multicultural. He wanted to return to the good old days when Romans were Romans. The more influential or fashionable the foreign culture, the more he disliked it. He especially hated Greeks, because they were elite foreigners, like European professors in American universities. But he also hated other foreigners: Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians.

In Juvenal’s fifteenth satire, there’s an episode of cannibalism, said to be a real-life event, unlike the stories told in the Odyssey about the Cyclopes and the Laestrygonians. It seems, in real life, to have occurred in AD 127, about three years before the poem is thought to have been written. It involves youths from two rival townships divided by religious hatred. The scene is Egypt, not Rome. One of the towns was Tentyra or Dendereh, which worshipped Hathor, the cow-headed goddess of love; the other was Ombi, now Negadeh, ten miles away, which worshipped Set, the pig-headed god of darkness, and the crocodile, abominated by Tentyrites.(6) It’s perhaps the first account we have, in an important poem, both of urban gang-warfare, and of inter-communal rioting of a sort endemic in our own time, from Belfast to Nicosia or Bombay:

… when one town had a big feast-day, the leaders and chief Citizens of

its rival decided to … wreck the gay merrymaking And break up the fun of

the party, the tables that would be spread … for the day-and-night

junketing That can last a whole week non-stop.

(Il. 38-44)(7)

But the poem is less concerned with rival gangs, like West Side Story, than with the fact that both reflect undifferentiated barbarism. It’s not just a question of a “plague on both their houses,” as in the famous prototype for West Side Story, but of “what else do you expect from such people?” It is mainly a xenophobic outburst against Egyptians, in the way that much of Juvenal’s satire is fueled by xenophobia, though that, as I said, is usually against foreign riff-raft infesting the streets of Rome, rather than, as here, aliens in their own native habitat. The incident is at least partly authenticated by independent evidence (of a kind sometimes said to be lacking in cannibal narratives). One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the cannibal imputation, irrespective of its truth, is targeting the foreignness of aliens.

The account continues, evoking the drunken, orgiastic excitations of “mob violence,” tribal provocations and incitements to riot, and a climax of gory combat that yields nothing to X-rated movies:

[They were] … slurred of speech and lurching from booze … all greasy

with rank pomade and Sporting garlands galore, wreaths all askew on their

heads. … Insults Began the affray … oaths volleyed back, battle was

joined With naked hands as weapons. Few jaws got through This punch-up

unscathed, hardly anyone had an unbroken Nose by the end. Throughout the

ranks there appeared Faces half-bashed to a jelly, features knocked out of

true, Fists bloodied from eyes, split cheeks laid wide to expose the bone.

(ll. 47-58)

Then, there is a decisive escalation: a ritual tearing to pieces, reminiscent of Dionysiac festivals, the so-called maenadic sparagmos, followed by the collective cannibal orgy:

But one of them, panic-stricken, pressed on A little too fast, tripped,

fell, and was captured. The victorious Rabble tore him apart into bits and

pieces, so many That this single corpse provided a morsel for all. They

wolfed him Bones and all, not bothering even to spit-roast Or make a stew

of his carcass. Building a proper fire-pit Was a bore, and took time – so

they scoffed the poor devil raw.

(Il. 77-83)(8)

Eating raw is a final indignity, the deepest mark of barbarism. If cannibalism is the ultimate pariah act, doing it raw was the lowest possible way of doing it. Juvenal is drawing on an old idea of the savagery of raw-eating, which went back to ancient Greece (I will give a Homeric example) and reappears in many later forms. It was often invoked as an incremental savagery, compounding the basic barbarity of the cannibal act.

In the Renaissance, European imaginations were especially stirred by the reported anthropophagy of the indigenous inhabitants of the New World. Indeed, as we have seen, we owe the word cannibal to Columbus. For two or three centuries, Amerindians became the official exemplars of the man-eating barbarian, fit for imperial missions of conquest and civilization, or (if they were lucky) merely candidates for ethnic defamation. Not only the Caribs, but the Inca of Peru, the Tupinamba of Brazil, the Aztecs of Mexico, the Iroquois of North America were to many Europeans what the Scythians and other barbarians were to the Greeks, and what the Egyptians represented to the rather special imagination of Juvenal. They became the subjects of an extended debate in which the distinction between raw and cooked anthropophagy reappears much as in Homer or Juvenal, and the issue of raw versus cooked even became mixed up in the parallel and contemporaneous debates in Europe over the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Thus, in the Brazilian lands where the Tupinamba lived, famous for the revenge ritual in which they cooked and ate their enemies’ bodies, French commentators in the 1550s noted a neighboring tribe, the Ouetaca, who ate their victims raw. They were a lower sort, comparable, in Protestant eyes, to Catholics who preened themselves on consuming the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic rite. Indeed, the insistence by the Roman Church on the doctrine of the “real presence” offered Protestants the polemical opportunity of describing Catholics as cannibals. At the time of the French Religious Wars (1562-1598), Protestants had a special feeling for the Indians of America, seeing them as fellow victims of the imperial Catholic powers. The great Huguenot ethnographer, Jean de Lery, who wrote with deep insight about the Tupinamba and became a role-model of Claude Levi-Strauss, made a point of contrasting their ritual not only with the exploitative voracities of conquering Catholic invaders, but with the raw-eating implications of the sacrament, both of them, in his view, much worse than honest man-eating. It is a fact of wider import that the great debate over the cannibal character of New World Indians, and its theological and political implications, coincided with a period of intensified preoccupation with Eucharistic doctrine; that the Eucharistic debate bounced back and forth across the Atlantic, interpenetrating with the Indian question; and that the hardening Roman Catholic insistence on the real presence, culminating at the Council of Trent in the 1550s and 1560s, posed challenges of anguished self-definition as well as providing Protestants with debating points.

In 1580, the great French essayist Michel de Montaigne published an essay “Of Cannibals,” covertly but unmistakably influenced by the Protestant Lery. It was an account, and a defense, of the Tupinamba that has become a classic statement, and is sometimes credited as being the inaugural declaration of the idea of the noble savage. The essay was written during the bitter period of the Religious Wars, and Montaigne, who was a Catholic, and very cautious, kept a discreet silence over the Eucharist and its cannibal associations. But his theme, even more than the Protestant Lery’s, is the superiority of the supposedly savage Amerindian over Montaigne’s own cruel and bloodthirsty compatriots in the French civil wars. Unlike Juvenal (whom he quotes respectfully), he is concerned to praise a cannibal tribe by comparison with the fratricidal French. The Tupinamba earn Montaigne’s approval because they eat their enemy, not their brothers, and because they do so from motives of vengeance and honor rather than naked hatred (or hunger), that is to say for ritual reasons rather than from passional need. They also eat him cooked rather than raw. But their decisive virtue for Montaigne (always horrified by the tortures and live burnings of European civil conflicts) lies less in the distinction of cooked versus raw than in the fact that the victim is cooked dead rather than roasted alive.(10)

The discredit that Juvenal placed on the mob’s raw-eating of a corpse is transferred by Montaigne to a diametrically opposite atrocity, the cooked-eating (or so it seems) of a non-corpse:

I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him

dead; and in tearing by tortures and the rack a body still full of feeling,

in roasting a man bit by bit, in having him bitten and mangled by dogs and

swine (as we have not only read but seen within fresh memory, not among

ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow citizens, and what is

worse, on the pretext of piety and religion), than in roasting and eating

him after he is dead. (p. 155)

The French are more barbaric and more cannibal than the cannibals because they cook their brothers live instead of eating their enemy dead. What Montaigne is reticent about is that, in the French religious wars, cannibal atrocities did occur, literally and in fact, in which French compatriots were not only burned alive, but actually eaten.

This fact was cunningly concealed in his wording, though it would have aided his argument to bring it out, just as Eucharistic connections are also concealed in his entire treatment of the subject, though the issue of the Eucharist was close to people’s minds when Amerindian practices were discussed.

Notice, however, the extent to which Montaigne’s wording, while ultimately withdrawing from the most damaging disclosure, flirts with it, leads us on, speaking of the French mob’s practice of “eating a man alive” and “roasting [him] bit by bit.” It is only at the end that we realize that he doesn’t mean what we have been led to think he meant, so that the victims’ corpses are not, after all, said to be eaten by their compatriots, but thrown to dogs and pigs. It seems that Montaigne could not bring himself to utter the most uncomfortable truth, however supportive of his argument. But nor could he remain simply silent. It’s a case of not being able to take the issue straight or to leave it alone, and Montaigne found refuge, like many other writers, in the bolt-hole of metaphor.

Juvenal describes a collective or mob-cannibalism, in which the Egyptian youths wolfed their victim “bones and all, not bothering even to spit-roast … his carcase.” This forthright description differs totally from Montaigne’s pseudo-forthrightness. Montaigne is eloquent as to how it’s more barbaric to eat a man alive, roasting him bit by bit, having him chewed and mangled and so on, elaborating the highly specific suggestion in pruriently diversionary detail, only to reveal that when it comes to his own depraved people devouring their brothers and devourers they do not do it, or not literally (though the literal act occurred and, as I said, Montaigne knew it), but only by proxy. It is, in the end, only the dogs and pigs who do the actual chewing and mangling.

This extraordinary slippage is not unique to Montaigne, though the almost seamless transition from cannibal suggestion to non-cannibal reality is his own. It is a particularly pure microstylistic or syntactical reflection, at sentence-level, of the pull of the cannibal implication and the ultimate refusal to face up to it. This may be special to Montaigne. But there is a Homeric precedent for such a last-minute diversion from the idea of men eaten by men to that of men eaten by dogs and the rest. In a famous scene of Book XXII of the Iliad, when Achilles is about to kill Hector, Hector asks for a deal in which the winner will ensure that the loser’s remains will be returned to his own people. Achilles replies that there will be no deal, calls Hector a dog, and says he will be left for dogs to eat up. This is itself an interesting displacement of the cannibal idea from men to dogs, and one that incidentally casts an ironic light on the common idea that dog don’t eat dog, which haunts expressions of the cannibal obsession at many points. In between these two mentions of dogs, Achilles raises the spectre of warrior eating warrior:

No more entreating … you dog … I wish only that my spirit and fury

[menos and thumos] would drive me to hack your meat away and eat it raw …

no, but the dogs and the birds will have you all for their feasting.

(XXII. 345-54)

This cannibal taunt, sandwiched (if you like) between the dogs, has a beguiling resemblance to an Amerindian warrior taunt reported by Hans Staden, who was captive of another Tupi tribe, the Tupinikin, some years before Montaigne wrote of the Tupinamba: “Cursed be thou my meat … vengeance on you for the death of my friends … before sunset your flesh shall be my roast meat,” language that in turn bears a resemblance to some boasts of Tupinamba captives in Montaigne’s essay.(11) From one perspective, these taunts are part of a ritualized battlefield machismo, not necessarily cannibal, equally common in epic speechmaking and in various real-life warrior cultures (including the Japanese samurai),(12) and nowadays domesticated in the verbal foreplay of the professional boxing ring. That the latter ritual has not lost all traces of older cannibal aggressions to this day may be surmised from the episode, a year or two ago, when Mike Tyson “bit both of Evander Holyfield’s ears in a heavyweight title fight.” His boxing license has recently been restored by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, an event that may seem to exist in a more or less fearful symmetry with the fact that cannibalism is not in itself illegal in the United States or the United Kingdom, though it is punishable (sometimes by fifteen months’ hard labor) in Papua New Guinea, or by death in Burundi.

But Achilles’ cannibal taunt differs from the one reported by Staden because it is hypothetical. He isn’t going to do it, so it isn’t a threat. “I wish I had the menos and thumos to eat you raw.” It’s not that he wants to, or would if he could: he can, if he wins, and he is going to win. It’s that he wants not so much to do it, as to want to do it. The implication is that he doesn’t do such things, though if he did he would do it violently and do it raw: ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (XXII. 347; the Greek word order puts “raw” ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) at the beginning of the line, then “tear” or “hack,” then “flesh,” then “eat”). Once again, raw-eating reinforces the ferocity or savagery of the act, but in this case the act is not performed. In fact, nobody gets eaten by a human in the Iliad (the folk-tale ogres of the Odyssey are another matter, honorary non-humans, if you like) and, for all the talk about corpses being eaten by dogs and birds in the Iliad, “no one is ever fed to the dogs” either. Dogs may or may not be a substitute fantasy, replacing what, in more primitive versions of the Iliadic epic, might have been direct cannibal threats or even cannibal acts from warrior to warrior, as some Homeric scholars believe (Griffin, 1980).

We may or may not be witnessing, on the poet’s part, a comprehensive shrinking from the subject, as too shocking to Greek tastes, and on Achilles’ part, a suggestion that whatever may pass on battlefields as the world goes, Greeks don’t actually do such things, even when sorely provoked. In Book XXIV, there is a closely parallel scene that adds color to this reading (XXIV. 200 ff.). The Trojan queen Hecuba, mother of the dead Hector, is raging at Achilles for what he did to Hector, just as Achilles had raged at Hector for what he did to Patroclus, and calling Achilles [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (207), a word usually translated as “savage” but that literally signifies raw-eating. In the earlier scene, Achilles had told Hector that “not even … the lady your mother” (XXII. 352-53) can prevent his fate (i.e., being eaten by dogs and birds).

When Hecuba actually speaks in Book XXIV, her intervention has thus been ironically prepared for in Book XXII, and she now repeats the same cannibal velleity as Achilles, but in a significantly modified form. After mourning that the dogs will feed on Hector (which in the end they do not), she says of the imputedly raw-eating Achilles (who doesn’t do such things):

I wish I could set teeth in the middle of his liver and eat it. That would

be vengeance for what he did to my son

(XXIV. 212-14)

Now this says she wants to do it, not that she wants to want to; that she would if she could, not that she couldn’t if she had the chance. In a context where the parallels are so close and the subject so horrifyingly memorable that we are bound to remember the earlier scene, a reverse symmetry points to an inescapable distinction. Hecuba, the broken-hearted old queen, will do it, and Achilles, the ferocious fighter, won’t. Is it because he is a Greek and she is not? or because she is a woman, and women, especially older women, are a recurrent type of voracious cannibal ogre, encountered also among Montaigne’s Tupinamba, and in the cannibal lore of the French religious wars of Montaigne’s lifetime, as well as that of the Irish famines reported by the seventeenth-century English writer Fynes Moryson, to whom I shall return. It is apposite, in this connection, that the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” is disguised as a grandmother. In a post-Homeric story, Hecuba ended up, incidentally, changed into a bitch.(13)

The cannibalism of the French, in Montaigne’s account, is worse than the Brazilian cannibals’ real man-eating, but it remains after all metaphorical, and therefore not so bad as the real thing. In this, it resembles the Eucharist, which may not be called metaphoric but may not be allowed to be anything else. The complicated pudeur about these issues is radically exemplified in the Catholic Church’s insistence on the “real” presence in the Eucharistic rite, which Freud and others have interpreted as a sublimation of pagan rites of ingesting a dead god or leader. The Church professed the sacrament to be (on the contrary) a demonstration that it, unlike pagan cults, avoids sanguinary sacrifices. In reality, the insistence on the “real presence” as literal, and the actual practice of physically employing bread and wine as metaphors of Christ’s flesh and blood, is a remarkable phenomenon in which physical objects, rather than words, are used in a figurative way, shielding us from a literalness which, however stridently asseverated, cannot be countenanced. It is comparable to the use of substitute animals or objects in human sacrifice, though more striking in its defiance of semantic appropriateness. It epitomizes in a particularly stark and specialized form the fact that we can’t face the idea of cannibalism straight but can’t leave it alone. Montaigne’s insistence that Frenchmen are more cannibal than the cannibals, and his effective denial that Frenchmen do it literally as distinct from metaphorically (against evidence we know he knew, which he refers to as having “not only read but seen within fresh memory”, and which, as I suggested, would have powerfully and literally strengthened his ostensible argument), suggests a similar pattern, repeated with variations by other authors, including Swift on the Irish in his famous “cannibal” pamphlet, A Modest Proposal.

I should perhaps say something about this pamphlet by Swift, published in 1729, whose full title is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of poor People in Ireland, from being a Burden to their Parents and Country; and for making them beneficial to the Publick. This proposal is based on a parade of demographic research and statistical analysis, and it advocates the idea of rescuing the Irish economy by selling off for food the babies of parents who can’t support them. Contrary to popular misconceptions, this piece of black humor is not a Dickensian cry of compassion for the beggars of Dublin (Swift thought they ought to be, in the Biblical phrase, destroyed from the face of the earth), or for the plight of their children. Nor is it mainly an attack on the English exploitation of Ireland, though Swift did sometimes attack that. Its point is that the Irish are so feckless in promoting their own self-interest that they are pursuing a course of self-destruction tantamount to eating each other up. It is the same point that Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus makes when he speaks of Ireland as “the old sow that eats her farrow.”

This is a fantasy which made Andre Breton, the Pope of Surrealism, identify A Modest Proposal as an inaugural text of humoir noir, a mode of imagination which is unchecked by satirical or moralistic agendas, which allows itself to entertain unspeakable, outlandish or prohibited ideas, and which has the freedom to be “cruel” in the special sense of that term which is usually implied by the phrase “literature of cruelty.”(14) Of course, Swift had a satirical and moral agenda, and Breton must have known it. He presumably meant that the cannibal fantasy spills over the discursive implications into a free sphere of cruel play. In that sphere, the cannibalism is “for real.” But it is only “for real” as long as, in another phrase we like to use, “it’s only in the mind.” Its cruel frissons are entertainable because we know that the proposal offers no suggestion of literal enactment. Readers of this poker-faced piece of advocacy have seldom been taken in by it in the way, for example, that many readers, at the time and in our time, have been taken in by the “final solution” aspects of another early eighteenth-century mock-proposal, Defoe’s Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), whose chilling mimicry of covert murderous intentions looks forward with uncanny prescience to some stylistic features of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Defoe hints at killing, not cannibalism, and killing (like Freud’s third great taboo, incest, and unlike cannibalism), is an act which, though prohibited, we don’t find too outlandish to contemplate in, or ascribe to, ourselves.

This is a large story, involving “denial” on a cultural scale. For now, the fact to insist on is that the official import of Swift’s cannibal proposal is metaphorical, in the way that his remark that England “would be glad to eat up our whole Nation” is metaphorical, except that his main target, as I said, is Irish self-destruction. However, it is not as simple as that. Contemporaries would have recognized as part of the joke that cannibalism in the literal sense was routinely ascribed to the Irish by English writers, from the sixteenth-century onwards. The idea had several sources, the oldest being a reference in the Greek geographer Strabo to the incidence of anthropophagy in Ierne, or Ireland, reinforced by a more recent false etymology that associated the Irish or Scoti with the Scythians.(15)

The most immediate factor was a common assimilation of the “savage old Irish” to other conquered peoples, most specifically the Indians of Ibero-America, who were the predominant objects of cannibal imputation in sixteenth-century Europe. It has long been recognized that the English discourse about the Irish was closely modeled on Spanish accounts of Indians, and in case anyone thought that the remoteness factor would suggest a greater degree of ethnic differentiation from Indians than from Irish, Ireland was referred to by Fynes Moryson as an island in “the Virginian Sea.” The Yahoos of Gulliver’s Travels, widely recognized, in one of their dimensions, as a portrayal of the bog Irish, are described as having flat noses, thick lips, and other physical features “common to all savage Nations.” So when, in the 1590s, the poet Spenser, in his View of the Present State of Ireland, proposed dealing with the Irish in such a way that they will “quicklie Consume themselves and devour one another,” he was giving voice to a commonly expressed sentiment in which the idea of actual anthropophagy, actually practiced, more than competes with any metaphorical alternatives.

This is how English writers wrote, including not only Spenser, Camden, and others, but the author of The Irish Rebellion (1646), Sir John Temple, father of Swift’s patron Sir William Temple. Now, as I suggested, it is abundantly clear that Swift’s own proposal is, on this issue, metaphorical and fictive, not literal and factual, and equally clear that this joke derives point and piquancy from a conventionally established literal discourse. Swift also introduces a second piquancy in the fact that the principal purchasers of the infants’ flesh will not be the savage Irish, who are the producers but can’t afford the product, but instead the affluent or ruling classes of Anglo-Irish administrators, landowners, merchants, bankers, fashionable ladies, and other groups, including the Anglican clergy of which Swift himself was a member. That joke, which extends the cannibal imputation from the “savage” old Irish to the “civilized” new Irish, the governing elites of metropolitan provenance or origin, is a Swiftian signature also found in the Yahoos, whose ultimate tendency is to assimilate the whole of humanity to its own despised subgroups.

Even so, or especially so, nowhere in A Modest Proposal are you given any seriously functional invitation to think of cannibalism in literally enactable terms, or not in the “here and now” of this particular advocacy. One would have thought that, as with Montaigne’s anthropophagous Frenchmen, any literal applications could be assumed or expected to reinforce the insult, and indeed clinch an argument that otherwise rests mainly on an analogy that is metaphorical and thus, by definition, incomplete. Beyond the commonplaces of xenophobic imputation, moreover, there were specific and actual cases of famine cannibalism among the Irish, documented or reported by English writers like Moryson. Two cases from Moryson were cited the year before the Modest Proposal, in November 1728, by Swift’s friend and colleague Thomas Sheridan, in an essay celebrating Swift’s birthday in the Intelligencer, a paper jointly edited by himself and Swift.

So we know Swift knew, as we know Montaigne knew, and the question arises of why, in a work whose cruel fantasy is for the most part uncompromisingly given its head, the last painful twist is withheld. Swift is not an author who usually shrinks from last painful twists, and the omission is even more striking than Montaigne’s, whose own claim to a special truthfulness is that he takes his reflections wherever the subject might lead. Arguably, things were easier for Swift than for Montaigne, if self-implication in the cannibal idea is the obstacle to literal disclosure, since the savage old Irish could be bracketed, in the way of Spenser and others, with “all savage Nations.” Swift may have blocked off that route for himself by redefining the Irish as a whole to include his own Anglo-Irish people, thus allowing them to fall, in the fiction, under an imputation traditionally reserved only for natives. Or, perhaps like other Anglo-Irishmen, he may already have been nursing that sense of a likeness between the Irish and the English, which is based on a recognition of ethnic relatedness and on a continuous cultural interpenetration, and is currently the subject of some attention: a perceived kinship variously registered by Shaw and others, including the critic Declan Kiberd, who sees the two groups as so similar that they need, and indeed deliberately mythologize, their differences from one another in order to define their own selves. It would not have been necessary for Swift to adopt the latter view in order to feel an uneasiness of cultural self-implication in a too literal application of the cannibal slur.

Cannibalism cannot be contemplated among “us,” even in our supposedly most clear-sighted and ruthless exposures of ourselves, except in a metaphorical form. The possibilities of a literal application to “ourselves” as distinct from others are a matter of endlessly fascinating speculative self-implication and tease, but usually blocked, in the last analysis, by strategies that range from soft-pedaling evasions or circumventions, as in Montaigne, to barefaced denial. A French anthropological joke has an anthropologist asking a tribal chief if there are any cannibals left in his tribe, to which the chief replies, “Not any more: we ate the last one yesterday.” It is widely reported that tribes which are thought or known to practice anthropophagy routinely deny it, ascribing the practice instead to a neighboring tribe. This seems to be the pattern involved in the distinction between Arawaks, who told Columbus about the man-eating Caribs, and the Caribs themselves, from whom our word “cannibal” derives. It is a secondary need of ours that our “us” should be balanced not by one but by two “thems,” a good and a bad, an interesting phenomenon there is no time to discuss here, but which is probably not unconnected with that preference for tripartite rather than binary divisions that has given us the concept of a “third world.”

At all events, the instinct to affirm that the other tribe is “cannibal” seems universal, and belongs to a long history of imperial imputations. All civilizations have always had multiple barbarians to despise, but each often identifies special or typifying groups. To the Greeks, it was the Scythians and their neighbors who were cannibals; to the Romans, at a particular point, the early Christians; to later European empires, successively Amerindians, Africans, Polynesians. According to Arens, New Guinea has now taken over from Africa. It is indeed probable that a geopolitical history of empires could be written by charting the successive places where a dominant culture located its cannibal other. The common factor in the long history of cannibal imputations is the combination of denial of it in ourselves and attribution of it to “others,” whom “we” wish to defame, conquer, appropriate, or “civilize.” In the present atmosphere of postcolonial guilt and imperial self-inculpation, the culture of denial has turned outward, in defense of those once accused of “unspeakable rites,” down to the recent academic fantasy that no people has ever practiced cannibalism as an authorized tribal activity, which makes from the undoubted fact of politically motivated imputation a dubious inference that the imputation was always false.

What is of interest is that denial about ourselves has here been extended to denial on behalf of “others.” Our time is perhaps the first in which the “other” has been systematically rehabilitated into an equality with “us.” This is in some ways to our credit. But in the cannibal debate, “equality” has often been submerged by a competing paradoxical idea of the cannibal’s “superiority.” The scenario in which the helpless or harmless or defeated victim is better than the imperial or tyrannical monster is also in circulation. Contrary to expectation, the latter is not a postcolonial formula, though it may have acquired enhanced currency in the postcolonial era. It is an old idea, coexisting, from the earliest times, if only in a recessive way, with the once dominant notion that it is the victimized barbarian other who is savage and cannibal. This idea is the nucleus of Montaigne’s argument that his countrymen are more savage than the savages and more cannibal than cannibals, but was not invented by him, even in respect to Amerindians, and is found in ancient Greece and among early Christians.

“Superiority” is not the same as equality, and the difference is conveniently ambiguous. Saying the cannibal is superior to the Frenchman, or that the Frenchman is more cannibal than the cannibal, is only possible for Montaigne at the cost of concealing the fact that the Frenchman is literally cannibal himself, which would prove Montaigne’s point but disable his readiness to make it. The concession of the real cannibal’s superiority, in other words, depends on a pretence that the Frenchman is only metaphorically cannibal, that he doesn’t really do it, so that if he is worse, he is also in another sense better. Being worse than cannibals has this in common with being better, that neither concedes equality, and there is a sense, from this perspective, in which being worse is always better than being the same.

In all the literature that self-castigatingly affirms the cannibals’ “superiority” to “us” there is an implicit self-exclusion, suggesting that at least we don’t do such things, that they’re inconceivable among us, that our way of being worse is only another way of being better, since “our” purported inferiority is itself in such contexts a saving difference. Greek and other mythologies are full of episodes in which gods devour humans; or in which, on the other hand, cannibalism is described as bestial or worse-than-bestial; a peculiar homology in which the higher-than-human and the lower-than-human can both be accepted as savingly non-human, and thus ultimately as letting “us” off the hook. These Greek examples seemingly apply to the human species as a whole, rather than specific ethnic groups, but they amount to a broader version of the same denial (if indeed they don’t reflect the even deeper ethnocentricity of assuming that Greeks are the only human group).

But the definitions of cannibalism as bestial, or worse than bestial, run against the contrary perception, strongly in evidence in Juvenal, that humans are the only animals who eat their own kind. These opposed perceptions lead to an either-way-you-lose portrayal of the human, implicit in Juvenal, and later developed into a true Swiftian signature, just as Juvenal’s expansion of the attack on Egyptians to a meditation on human cruelty anticipates Swift’s tactic of assimilating humankind to its despised subgroups. This takes a meditative, self-implicating form at the end of Juvenal’s satire, and reminds us that the kinship of “others” with “us” has long been an object of anxiety, often in the form of a troubled suspicion of a savage residue in ourselves. The anxiety haunts attempts at civilized self-definition on “our” part, from Plato to the Conrad of Heart of Darkness and to Freud (himself, on this matter, more a case to be explained than an aid to explanation). Long before Freud, an assumption existed both that the barbarian’s ways are really an earlier stage of “our own” evolution, and that each of “us” individually carries a potential of barbarian reversion. Thus Plato tells us in the Republic that the behavior of a tyrant is an emergence into daylight of buried primitive appetites, which include the eating of his own children, though there is again no suggestion that the tyrant does so literally.(16)

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness offers a more complicated picture. In that modern fiction of Empire, the narrator Marlow is haunted by the call of the African bush and the atavistic seductions of tribal drums. Kurtz, his alter ego, succumbs to that call: he goes native, and performs “unspeakable rites,” a phrase, common in Victorian adventure stories, which referred darkly, with a nudge and a wink, to what the natives get up to round a fire, itself a fictional stereotype going back at least as far as Robinson Crusoe, and ultimately deriving from travel books. Kurtz seems literally to have consumed human flesh, as Plato’s tyrant does not, or so we are teasingly encouraged to think. But we are never explicitly told what these “rites” were, even as we are teased into guessing. On the other hand, when some black crew-men refrain from eating human flesh at Marlow’s request they are nevertheless spoken of as cannibals, while Kurtz is not. In this fiction so permeated by the idea of “our” kinship with the other, it still cannot be said outright, any more than in Montaigne, that our representative is cannibal (though it’s hinted that he must have done the deed), while the native “other” is called cannibal, though we know he didn’t do it.

Such blurred and ambiguous treatments are characteristic of most of the fiction which deals with this subject. If we know the deed was done, as in Kurtz, we don’t know what it was; if we know what it was, as in some episodes of cannibal fantasy in Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites (Pompes funebres) or Monique Wittig’s Lesbian Body (Le Corps lesbien), two homosexual novels of great power, we are never sure whether it was actually done.(17) Cannibalism is almost never treated, in modern fiction, in the manner we associate with the realist tradition, even by writers, from Defoe to the present, who are closely identified with that tradition. Circumvention, ambiguity, hinted denials, melodramatic horror or the nervous joke, invariably take over, in narratives otherwise remarkable for their parade of sober factuality. Jokerie, in particular, is endemic: a newspaper announcement of a radio program I once did on this subject, printed before the talk itself existed, quipped that it should be “something to chew on.” And a retreat into cannibal metaphors, where the forbidden idea can be entertained without danger, as in Montaigne, is common: the novels of William Golding are an unusually interesting illustration of this.

Freud, however, is the classic example. Most of his many references to cannibalism are metaphorical, dealing with the oral phase of sexuality, incorporation, introjection, narcissism and homosexuality.(18) Set alongside Freud’s tendency to deny the fact of literal cannibal survivals, this drift to metaphor on his part is an exceptionally clear case of the phenomenon observed in Montaigne and other authors, as well as in some of our ordinary ways of speaking: when, for example, lovers say “I could eat you up,” or call their beloved sugar or honey, or experience a devouring passion; or when a woman is called a dish; or when retiring Speakers of the United States House of Representatives say their congressional colleagues are cannibals;(19) or when a tyrant or a conquering nation swallows up its victims; or when we batten on one another in our personal relations; or when mechanics cannibalize a car for spare parts; or when literary theorists use cannibal language to mean whatever literary theorists mean. This compulsion to metaphor appears to be universal. In the sexual department, as Levi-Strauss tells us, it seems to exist in all languages, including non-Western or “tribal” ones. It shows better than any other example an endemic obsession with the subject and a reluctance to face its various realities.

No doubt, Freud’s patients and his readers were more likely to have experienced the metaphorical forms of cannibalism (the oral phase, or narcissism, or whatever), than the literal ones. Still it is hard, as I said at the beginning, not to see in Freud’s treatment of the subject an example of Freudian resistance. In Totem and Taboo (1913) and Moses and Monotheism (1939), Freud attempted what I think is his only account of a literal anthropophagous act. He retells in these two books the Darwinian myth of the “primal horde,” in which, at the beginning of society, the sons kill and devour the father. This myth, largely discredited among ethnologists by Freud’s time, caused Freud many problems. His writing on this topic is a panic-stricken mixture of unscientific speculation, bald assertion, and defensive footnoting, deteriorating in successive afterthoughts under pressure of criticism. It speaks eloquently of the subject’s unspeakability, even for Freud, who knew about denial, and who prided himself on speaking out. But that is another story.


(1) See W. Arens, 1979 and the exchange between Arens and Marshall Sahlins, 1979. For surveys of the debate, see Gina Kolata, 1987 and Lawrence Osborne, 1997.

(2) The term cannibal made its way into Spanish, Italian, French, and English in ensuing years. See, for example, Raymond Arveiller, 1963, 142-46.

(3) See Claude Rawson, 1978, especially 310-13; Claude Rawson, 1984, II. 1159-87, especially 1164-68, 1179; and David Gordon White, 1991.

(4) Columbus’ Journal of First Voyage, abstracted by Bartolome de las Casas, 4 November 1492, where the word caniba does not yet appear, and entries for 23 and 26 November, where we read again of the one-eyed men “and others called cannibals” (y otros que se llamavan canibales), and of people from Caniba or Canima.

(5) Homer, Odyssey, I. 69-71, IX. 105ff; Pliny, Natural History, VII. ii. 10, 23-24; Marco Polo, Travels, III. xiii, Complete Yule-Cordier Edition, New York, Dover, 1993, 3 vols., II.309-12 and nn., III. 109-10 nn (also II.228 n.3); Sir John Mandeville, Travels, trs. C.W.R.D. Mosely, Harmondsworth Penguin, 1983, p. 134; see White, Myths of the Dog-Man, esp. pp. 53-64, 184-85; for wider information on Cynocephali, as well as on the dog/cannibal connection, see the index to White’s important book, under Cynocephali and Cannibals; also Lestringant, Cannibals, pp. 15, 192 n.3.

(6) For details of the event or supposed event, and its possible date, see E. Courtney, 1980, and Peter Green, 1974, pp. 289-90, especially nn. 6-10. For parallel events in Egypt, see Philo of Alexandria, Contemplative Life, V, who cites anthropophagous riots at drunken Egyptian gatherings, and Plutarch, “Isis and Osiris,” Moralia, 380 BC. For an old tradition that Juvenal had personal experience of Egypt, which Courtney treats sceptically (pp. 8, 599), and its bearing on Satire XV, see especially Gilbert Highet, 1954, 1962, pp. 28-31, 149-53, 284-86 nn., and Lindsay, 1963, 109-21.

(7) I use Peter Green’s translation (see previous note). The lineation given in the text is that of the Latin original, to which Green adheres closely. For historical background see, in addition to Green’s notes (288-92), see Courtney, 1980, 590-612. On some classical literature of inter-communal enmity, see Courtney, 1980, 593.

(8) An apparently unconsummated Aztec parallel of interurban hostility, involving Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) and the rival town of Tlatelolco, is reported, from Diego Duran’s Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana, by Inga Clendinnen: after some market women from both cities got into a fight, Tenocha braves strolled through Tlatelolco market and were shouted at: “What merchandise have you brought to sell? Do you want to sell your intestines or hearts?” (Clendinnen, 1991, 1995), pp. 47-48.

(9) For a full account of these questions, see Frank Lestringant, 1990, 1996; for Jean de Lery’s comments, see Whatley, 1990, pp. 28-30 and 235 no. 5, 41 and 236 no.7.

(10) I cite the translation by Donald Frame, 1965, 150-59. Page-references in the text are to this edition. The ensuing remarks on Montaigne, Lery, the French religious wars and the Amerindian question, draw on Claude Rawson, 1992, 299-363, especially 299-330, which may be consulted for fuller documentation.

(11) Hans Staden, The True History of His Captivity, 1557, trs. Malcolm Letts, London, Routledge, 1928, p. 152, cited in Rawson, “Literature and the Proscribed Act,” p. 1164. See also Montaigne, p. 158.

(12) On samurai, see Noel Perrin, 1979, pp.16-17; for epic speech-making, see Pope’s comment in his “Essay on Homer’s Battels,” VII. 260.

(13) Euripides, Hecuba ll.1265-73; see “Narrative and the Proscribed Act,” pp. 1168,1183 n.49.

(14) Breton, Andre, Anthologie de l’humour noir, rev. ed. (Paris: Livre de Poche, 1966, 19ff). Preface, pp. 9-16, 23.

(15) Strabo, Geography, IV.v.4; VII.iii.6-7; See “‘Indians’ and Irish,” pp. 345 ff.

(16) Detienne, Marcel, Dionysos Slain, pp. 58-59; Plato, Republic, IX. 571C, and commentary in Republic, Adam, James and Rees, D. A., eds., 2nd ed., Cambridge, 1965, II. 319-20 nn.

(17) For a full discussion of this question, see Rawson, “Cannibalism and Fiction, II,” esp. pp. 270 ff.

(18) For a list of Freud’s cannibal references, see “Cannibalism and Fiction, II,” p. 229 n.7.

(19) Jim Wright, on 3 May 1989, cited in the New York Times on 8 November 1998; on Newt Gingrich, on 6, 7, 8 November 1998.


“A Short History of Cannibalism,” BBC Radio 3, 24 May 1997.

“Cannibal Executed,” The Times (London), 7 Dec. 1981, 4.

“Pick of the Day,” Sunday Times (London), 18 May 1997, 55.

“Tribesmen Get 15 Months for Cannibalism,” The Times (London), 23 Aug. 1978, 4.

“With a Warning, Nevada Lets Tyson Return to Boxing,” New York Times, 20 Oct. 1998, A.1, D.4.

Arens, W., Man-Eating Myth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 83.

Arens, W. and Sahlins, Marshall, New York Review of Books, 22 March 1979, 45-47.

Arveiller, Raymond, Contribution a l’etude des termes de voyage en francais (1505-1722) (Paris: d’Artrey, 1963), pp. 142-46.

Clendinnen, Inga, Aztecs: An Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 1995), pp. 47-48.

Columbus, Journal of the First Voyage (Diario del primer viaje) 1492, trs. and ed. B.W. Ife, Warminster, Aris and Phillips, pp. 68, 90, 96 (Spanish text; English trs. on facing pp. 69, 91, 97).

Courtney, E., A Commentary on the Satires of Juvenal (London: Athlone Press, 1980), p. 598.

Courtney, E., A Commentary on the Satires of Juvenal (London: Athlone Press, 1980), p. 590-612.

Detienne, Marcel, Dionysos Slain, Muellner, Mireille and Muellner, Leonard, trans. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1999), pp. 57-59; “Narrative and the Proscribed Act,” 1177-78.

Frame, Donald, Complete Essays (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965), pp. 150-59.

Freud, Letter to Marie Bonaparte, 30 April 1932, in Sigmund Freud: His Life and Work, Jones, Ernest, ed. (London: Hogarth Press, 1953-1957), III. 484.

Freud, Standard Edition, ed. Strachey, XIII. 141-45, 154-55 (Totem and Taboo); XXIII. 81-84, 130 ff. (Moses and Monotheism).

Green, Peter, trans., Juvenal, The Sixteen Satires, rev. ed. (London, Penguin, 1974), pp. 289-90.

Griffin, Jasper, Homer on Life and Death (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), pp. 20-21.

Highet, Gilbert, Juvenal the Satirist (1954) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 28-31, 149-53, pp. 284-86.

Homer, Iliad, XXII. 249ff., 338ff., Lattimore, Richmond, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961).

Joyce, James, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: 1978).

Kolata, Gina, “Are the Horrors of Cannibalism Fact or Fiction?” Smithsonian, XVII (March 1987): 150-70.

Lery, Jean de, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Whatley, Janet, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 28-30 and 235 n. 5, 41 and 236 n.7.

Lestringant, Frank, Cannibals: The Discovery and Representation of the Cannibal from Columbus to Jules Verne, Morris, Rosemary, trans. (Cambridge: Polity, 1997), pp. 15-17.

Lestringant, Frank, Le Huguenot et le Sauvage (Paris: Aux Amateurs de Livres, 1990).

Lestringant, Frank, Une Sainte Horreur, ou le Voyage en Eucharistie XVIe-XVIIIe Siecle (Paris: PUF, 1996).

Levi-Strauss, Claude, La Pensee Sauvage (Paris: Plon, 1974), p. 139, pp. 136-45.

Lindsay, Jack, Daily Life in Roman Egypt (London: Frederick Muller, 1963), pp. 109-21.

Montaigne, Michel de, Complete Essays (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965), pp. 150-59.

Moryson, Fynes, An Itinerary (1617) (Glasgow: James Maclehose, 1907-1908), IV. 185.

Osborne, Lawrence, “Does Man Eat Man? Inside the Great Cannibalism

Controversy,” Lingua Franca (April-May 1997): 28-38.

Perrin, Noel, Giving up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 (Boston: D. R. Godine, 1979), pp. 16-17.

Pope, Alexander, “Essay on Homer’s Battels,” in Twickenham Edition of the Works of Alexander Pope, Butt, John, Mack, Maynard, et al., eds. (London: Methuen, 1939-1969), VII. 260.

Rawson, Claude, “Cannibalism and Fiction, Part II,” Genre, XI (1978): 227-313, esp. 310-13.

Rawson, Claude, “`Indians’ and Irish: Montaigne, Swift, and the Cannibal Question,” Modern Language Quarterly, LIII (1992): 302-05, 349-50.

Rawson, Claude, “‘Indians’ and Irish: Montaigne, Swift, and the Cannibal Question,” Modern Language Quarterly, LIII (1992): 299-363.

Rawson, Claude, “Narrative and the Proscribed Act: Homer, Euripides and the Literature of Cannibalism,” in Literary Theory and Criticism: Festschrift Presented to Rene Wellek in Honor of His Eightieth Birthday, Strelka, Joseph P., ed. (New York: Peter Lang, 1984), II. 1159-87, esp. 1164-68, 1179.

Rawson, Claude, “Narrative and the Proscribed Act,” 1163-67.

Redfield, James M., Nature and Culture in the Iliad (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 169.

Segal, Charles, The Theme of the Mutilation of the Corpse in the Iliad (Leiden: Brill, 1971), pp. 54-60.

Spenser, Edmund, View of the Present State of Ireland, in Prose Works, Gottfried, Rudolf, ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1949), p. 15, 382.

Spenser, Present State, p. 158.

Staden, Hans, The True History of His Captivity, 1557, Letts, Malcolm, trans. (London, Routledge, 1928), p. 152; cited in Rawson, C., “Literature and the Proscribed Act,” 1164. See also Montaigne, p. 158.

Swift, Jonathan and Sheridan, Thomas, The Intelligencer, Woolley, James, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 197-203, 344-55.

Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver’s Travels, in Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Davis, Herbert, et al., eds. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1939-1974), XI. 230.

Temple, Sir John, The Irish Rebellion, 1646, 8.

White, David Gordon, Myths of the Dog-Man (Chicago: 1991).

Wright, Jim, “Without Focus or Gingrich, Rivalries Engulf the G.O.P.,” New York Times, 8 Nov. 1998, A.22.

Wright, Jim, “Facing Revolt, Gingrich Won’t Run,” New York Times, 7 Nov. 1998, A.1.

Claude Rawson is the Maynard Mack Professor of English at Yale University. He is the editor of the Blackwell Critical Biography series and the author of many books and articles, including Satire and sentiment, 1660-1830 (1994) and Jonathan Swift: A Collection of Critical Essays (1995).

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