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Epicurean Cannibalism, or France Gone Savage
Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores the figure of the Epicurean-as-cannibal in the Doctrine curieuse des beaux esprits de ce temps, ou pretendus tels (1623) by the French Jesuit priest Garasse. The Doctrine was drafted as an attack on the poet Théophile de Viau and his ‘Epicurean’ entourage, and was instrumental in transforming the French literary field of the early seventeenth century. Garasse uses the figure of the cannibal to locate Epicureans outside the civilized, Catholic, and human community. Cannibalism comes to signify transgressive, animal-like behaviour based on immanent desire as opposed to civilized behaviour guided by external law, while the cannibal serves as a figure for the heretical body that threatens to devour French youth. After comparing Théophile and Epicureans to cannibalistic peoples, Garasse moves on to associate them with cannibalistic animals in order to depict the supposed danger they represented to the Christian French body politic.



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