Through readings of iconic figures such as the cannibal, the child, the alien, and the posthuman, Gabriele Schwab analyzes literary explorations at the boundaries of the human. Treating literature as a dynamic medium that "writes culture" -- one that makes the abstract particular and local, and situates us within the world -- Schwab pioneers a compelling approach to reading literary texts as "anthropologies of the future" that challenge habitual productions of meaning and knowledge.
Schwab's study draws on anthropology, philosophy, critical theory, and psychoanalysis to trace literature's profound impact on the cultural imaginary. Following a new interpretation of Derrida's and Lévi-Strauss's famous controversy over the indigenous Nambikwara, Schwab explores the vicissitudes of "traveling literature" through novels and films that fashion a cross-cultural imaginary. She also examines the intricate links between colonialism, cannibalism, melancholia, the fate of disenfranchised children under the forces of globalization, and the intertwinement of property and personhood in the neoliberal imaginary. Schwab concludes with an exploration of discourses on the posthuman, using Samuel Beckett's "The Lost Ones" and its depiction of a future lived under the conditions of minimal life. Drawing on a wide range of theories, Schwab engages the productive intersections between literary studies and anthropology, underscoring the power of literature to shape culture, subjectivity, and life.