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Of Cannibals, Credo, and Custom: Jean de Léry's Calvinist View of Civilization in Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil (1578)

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Abstract:

Jean de Léry's Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil (1578) is the ethnological narrative of an active Protestant reformer under Jean Calvin's tutelage. While in Brazil (1556-58), Léry grapples with the polarities of Protestants and Catholics and explores the divide between Christian and cannibal. By composing his text twenty years after the travels to Brazil, Léry reconsiders observations of the Brazilian experience through the perspective of contemporary Protestant struggles in Western Europe. Léry orders his narrative such that it emphasizes the religious and political motives of both the voyage and the text itself. Narrative excursions blur the clear distinction between French and foreign, cultured and cannibal, and civilized and savage. The resulting text presents an anthropological study of the state of early modern civilization — European and Brazilian alike — from a distinctly Calvinist perspective.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 29, 2006

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