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The Tyrant's Feast

ENGL 016.304
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

In his Republic, Plato defines the tyrant as a man captive to fierce desires and unnatural appetites. Like their historical and philosophical models, literary texts portray the tyrant as a species of beast—a wolf, wildly feasting on his own people. Naturally, literature about tyrants abounds with savage imagery: butchery, blood feasts, even cannibalism. However, the tyrant’s unnatural appetites are not confined to food. He is also represented as a sexual predator, living out of forbidden desire. This course will examine literary portraits of appetitive tyrants from ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance and early nineteenth-century England. Among the authors we will read are, Plato, Suetonius, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Percy Shelley. Our analyses of these texts will involve close readings with special attention to images of feasting and desire, and we will conduct these readings within a carefully delineated context of the history of political thought.