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From Communion to Cannibalism

From Communion to Cannibalism: An Anatomy of Metaphors of Incorporation

Maggie Kilgour
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 322
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    From Communion to Cannibalism
    Book Description:

    Focusing on such metaphors as communion and cannibalism in a wide range of Western literary works, Maggie Kilgour examines the opposition between outside and inside and the strategies of incorporation by which it is transcended. This opposition is basic to literature in that it underlies other polarities such as those between form and content, the literal and metaphorical, source and model. Kilgour demonstrates the usefulness of incorporation as a subsuming metaphor that describes the construction and then the dissolution of opposites or separate identities in a text: the distinction between outside and inside, essentially that of eater and eaten, is both absolute and unreciprocal and yet fades in the process of ingestion--as suggested in the saying "you are what you eat.".

    Kilgour explores here a fable of identity central to Western thought that represents duality as the result of a fall from a primal symbiotic unity to which men have longed to return. However, while incorporation can be desired as the end of alienation, it can also be feared as a form of regression through which individual identity is lost. Beginning with the works of Homer, Ovid, Augustine, and Dante, Kilgour traces the ambivalent attitude toward incorporation throughout Western literature. She examines the Eucharist as a model for internalization in Renaissance texts, addresses the incorporation of past material in the nineteenth century, and concludes with a discussion of the role of incorporation in cultural theory today.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6078-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Metaphors and Incorporation
    (pp. 3-19)

    Much of the literary criticism of the past few decades, under the influence of structuralism and its descendants, has been concerned with the role of binary oppositions in the production of meaning. Structuralism revealed that without differences there can be no meaning; poststructuralism, that any meaning constructed by differences defined as absolute antitheses needs constant questioning. Where structuralism isolated oppositions, deconstruction, Marxism, and feminism make different attempts to dismantle them. Over the past years a wide variety of binary pairs have been studied from different critical positions, pairs such as cooked/raw, center/periphery, voice/writing, spirit/flesh, art (culture)/nature, male/female, content/form, proper/improper, literal/metaphorical,...

  5. CHAPTER I Classical Incremental Visions
    (pp. 20-45)

    In his discussion of the nostalgia for a lost pastoral ideal that underlies the antithesis between the rural and the urban inThe Country and the City,Raymond Williams notes how such an ideal is infinitely regressive, projected backward in time by each generation to an immediately preceding time, which it glimpsed briefly in childhood.¹ The Golden Age of harmony between man and nature, the “good old days,” has always just turned into an Iron Age with the present generation’s passage into adulthood. As Williams notes, although each “fall” involves the perception of some real change—the most significant of...

  6. CHAPTER II The Word and Flesh
    (pp. 46-78)

    Underneath the mythic unity and harmony of the classical world, there lies in fact an already uneasy relation between inside and outside that is potentially not only antithetical but also cannibalistic. For the Augustan Ovid, a world of total immanence is already extremely suspicious; for Christian writers (whose crucial event, that of the incarnation, significantly occurred also at the time of Augustus), it is even more so. Christianity, a model logocentric system, depends on the existence of a transcendental deity outside the world who guarantees meaning. One of its central problems is getting that deity inside the world without identifying...

  7. CHAPTER III The Reformation of the Host
    (pp. 79-139)

    Both Augustine and Dante attempt to establish a temperate balance between opposites, based on the model of the incarnation. Letter, or flesh, and spirit, the outside and inside both of the individual and of poetic figures, are seen as identified but differentiated. In this chapter, I shall be looking at how the loss of this already delicate balance is represented, tracing the polarization of terms through the works of Rabelais, Ben Jonson, and Milton. As Dante’s journey is from cannibalism to communion, while Milton’s tale of the Fall tells that journey in reverse, I would like to begin approaching the...

  8. CHAPTER IV Under the Sign of Saturn
    (pp. 140-166)

    With Milton we have not only moved from communion to cannibalism but have also come to the emergence of the modern autonomous although self-divided individual. Milton’s central position in seventeenth-century English literature may be connected with a tendency to read the time itself as one of a “fall”: whether it be seen as a “dissociation of sensibility,” a “breaking of the circle,” a replacement of a circular world of resemblances by a linear world dominated by analysis, or a fall from the symbiotic relations of imitatio into the anxiety of influence.¹ More generally, since Ruskin, the Renaissance has itself been...

  9. CHAPTER V The Reformed Deformed
    (pp. 167-225)

    Discussions of the century of revolution in England, then, tend to characterize it as the time of a fall, in which, as in Milton’s version, terms previously held in a more flexible relation to each other became consolidated as binary oppositions. The product of this fall is the individual, a unified and coherent being defined by and against others who appear less coherent, even fragmented: society (especially when represented as the mob), women, social and religious deviants, cannibals—others whose very existence threatens the unity of the individual. The subject overcomes duality and creates itself as a unified being by...

  10. CONCLUSION: In Which Everything Is Included and Nothing Concluded
    (pp. 226-248)

    Like the Modern Hiawatha’s mittens, oppositions seem infinitely reversible as long as the assumptions upon which they are based remain unquestioned. Undoubtedly the contrast between inside and outside is a useful and necessary one for the negotiation of everyday life in the body; the inability to distinguish between the two is one of the terrors of the gothic and a sign of paranoia. But these are also relative and relational terms, determined by position, not essence. It appears to me, however, that the awareness of a difference between inside and outside easily generates a desire to bridge that gap by...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 249-300)
  12. Index
    (pp. 301-310)