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European Narratives of Discovery: Brazil


  • What factors shaped Léry’s vision of the new world? What role did first-hand experience play in giving authority to his text?
  • Pay attention to Léry’s comparisons of European and the Tupinamba culture. Identify sections of text where he compares French and Tupinamba practices.
  • Compare Léry’s and Montaigne’s views of cannibals.

Primary Sources

  • Léry, Jean de, History of a voyage to the land of Brazil, otherwise called America (1578) (available electronically through the Warwick Library Catalogue)
  • Montaigne, Michel, On Cannibals (1580), available online via the library catalogue (available electronically thorugh the Warwick Library Catalogue, via 18th-Century Collections Online).

Required Secondary Reading

  • Frisch, Andrea, ‘In a Sacramental Mode: Jean de Léry’s Calvinist Ethnography’, Representations, no. 77 (2002).

Additional Secondary Readings

  • Brandon, William, New Worlds for Old: Reports from the New World and Their Effect on the Development of Social Thought in Europe, 1500-1800, Ohio University Press, (Athens, 1986).
  • Castro-Klarén, Sara, ‘What Does Cannibalism Speak? Jean de Lery and the Tupinamba Lesson’, in Carnal Knowledge. Essays of the Flesh, Sex and Sexuality, ed. Pamela Bacarisse. Pittsburgh: Ediciones Tres Rios. l993, pp. 23-43.
  • Certeau, Michel de, ‘Ethno-Graphy: Speech, or the Space of the Other: Jean de Léry’, in The Writing of History, Columbia University Press (New York, 1988).
  • Lestringant, Frank, Cannibals: The Discovery and Representation of the Cannibal from Columbus to Jules Verne, University of California Press (Berkeley, 1997), chap. 6: ‘Jean de Léry, or the Cannibal Obsession’, and chap. 8: ‘The Spitting Cannibal’.
  • Pagden, Anthony, European Encounters with the New World, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1993), Chapters 1-2.
  • Whatley, Janet, ‘Food and the Limits of Civility: The Testimony of Jean de Lery’, Sixteenth Century Journal, no. 15:4 (1984).