Investigating the Use of Ancient Fertility Themes in Malcolm Bradbury’s Eating People Is Wrong

Noureddine Friji


Employing James George Frazer’s anthropological book The Golden Bough (1890) as a theoretical background, this paper examines the ways in which Malcolm Bradbury’s academic novel Eating People Is Wrong (1959) builds on ancient fertility rituals to delineate the divide between past and present moods and modes of thought and to illuminate the emotional and intellectual sterility afflicting the modern academy and its population. It will be clear that although their names and conduct resonate with echoes of the celebrations and rites of savage tribes and subsequent societies, Bradbury’s characters fail to enact the roles of ancient fertility divinities and to maintain the essential flavour of remote antiquity’s culture. This is best illustrated by the vain attempts of a number of ardent suitors to marry the leading but misleading character Emma Fielding, a latter-day fertility goddess who heartlessly hurts their hearts. While ancient fertility goddesses’ suitors or consorts were concerned about the welfare of the community on the whole, alongside their own welfare, their modern counterparts merely seek to enhance their narrow interests. Predictably, all the characters in the novel finish up helpless and hopeless. Finally, grounded on the premise that scholarly disciplines tend to crisscross in a mutually enriching manner, this investigation aims to prove how helpful it is for Bradbury to explore the academic soul and soil through the employment of studies from other fields and how interesting it is for the researcher to spot out this cultural trend and to bring it to the attention of the reader.


Academic Novel, Malcolm Bradbury, James George Frazer, Fertility Goddess, Fertility Rituals, Imitative Magic, Intellectual Sterility

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