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Retelling the Legend of Sawney Bean: Cannibalism in Eighteenth-Century England

Retelling the Legend of Sawney Bean: Cannibalism in Eighteenth-Century England
Retelling the Legend of Sawney Bean: Cannibalism in Eighteenth-Century England
This chapter provides a wider context for the stories of cannibalism that circulated in England in the eighteenth century. It demonstrates how the tale of Sawney Bean, the tale of a murderous family of cannibals living in a Scottish cave in the time of James VI, served a particular sociopolitical purpose by providing a convenient way to characterize the rebellious Scots as greedy, stupid, and brutish. It explores how the figure of the cannibal provided an enduring and versatile metaphor in English culture for the detrimental effects of excessive greed in a rapidly developing society, and Sawney became a convenient shorthand for conveying this shift. The cannibal was not, therefore, an entirely alien figure but a form of bogeyman (or possibly bogeywoman) who could be located in a variety of settings as a comment on the levels of disorder in contemporary society.
135-152
The University of Arkansas Press
Gammon, Julie
fd6d6be9-0cd7-43ee-947f-732609f99807
Herrmann, Rachel B.
Gammon, Julie
fd6d6be9-0cd7-43ee-947f-732609f99807
Herrmann, Rachel B.

Gammon, Julie (2019) Retelling the Legend of Sawney Bean: Cannibalism in Eighteenth-Century England. In, Herrmann, Rachel B. (ed.) To Feast on Us as Their Prey: Cannibalism in the Early Modern Atlantic. Fayetteville. The University of Arkansas Press, pp. 135-152. (doi:10.2307/j.ctv8jp0cn.12).

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

This chapter provides a wider context for the stories of cannibalism that circulated in England in the eighteenth century. It demonstrates how the tale of Sawney Bean, the tale of a murderous family of cannibals living in a Scottish cave in the time of James VI, served a particular sociopolitical purpose by providing a convenient way to characterize the rebellious Scots as greedy, stupid, and brutish. It explores how the figure of the cannibal provided an enduring and versatile metaphor in English culture for the detrimental effects of excessive greed in a rapidly developing society, and Sawney became a convenient shorthand for conveying this shift. The cannibal was not, therefore, an entirely alien figure but a form of bogeyman (or possibly bogeywoman) who could be located in a variety of settings as a comment on the levels of disorder in contemporary society.

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In preparation date: 2017
Published date: 1 February 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 447139
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/447139
PURE UUID: d5758c8c-09bd-4779-b44b-7565da760655

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Date deposited: 04 Mar 2021 17:30
Last modified: 22 Jul 2022 21:34

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Contributors

Author: Julie Gammon
Editor: Rachel B. Herrmann

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