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Title page for ETD etd-07182018-153031

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Lehr, Amanda M.
URN etd-07182018-153031
Title Raw Metaphors: Cannibal Poetics in Early Modern England
Degree PhD
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kathryn Schwarz Committee Co-Chair
Leah Marcus Committee Co-Chair
Beth A. Conklin Committee Member
Lynn Enterline Committee Member
  • figurative language
  • corpse medicine
  • anthropology
  • early modern
  • lyric poetry
  • humanism
Date of Defense 2018-04-27
Availability unrestricted
Raw Metaphors concerns itself with the uses and functions of cannibalism as a literary figure in the work of four major early modern poets, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Richard Crashaw, and John Milton. While cannibalism in this period is often assumed to be a New World concern, early modern England fostered a dense network of cannibal discourses related to medicine, politics, religion, philosophy, and artistic creation. In addition to travel narratives about man-eating tribes, domestic debates over transubstantiation or practices of consuming corpse matter as medical treatment ensured that the availability of cannibalism-as-figure in the English imaginary was entwined with an awareness of its concrete presence. I argue that this instability between cannibalism-as-trope and cannibalism-as-material-practice generated a particularly intense sense of cognitive dissonance for those who attempted to use or interpret metaphors of man-eating. From a historical perspective, my project integrates discussions of different types of cannibalism in early modern England to interrogate how they overlap and collaboratively disrupt cultural theories about the integrity of the body and ownership of personal or intellectual property. The chief aim of my project, however, is to use cannibal tropes to interrogate fissures within figurative language itself. In my texts of study, I argue that, despite its appeal as a trope, cannibalism resists abstraction because of its visceral physicality. As a result, the literary figures which enclose it tend to backfire or function in unexpected ways. Through cannibal tropes and their rebound effects, I mean to demonstrate that figurative language is shackled to its material referents, creating interpretive or epistemological problems when we attempt to treat them as separable.
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