Welcome to Jungle Books

Why does Tarzan continue to fascinate even as fear of the “savage” and scorn for the “uncivilized” grow? Continue reading in these pages and you will come to realize exactly how complex, and also how interesting this question is.

This is the site for Leslie Bary‘s course “Jungle Books” at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you click on the tabs at the top of this page, you will see the course reading list, syllabus, video list, and list of secondary sources. These pages will expand as more material is added, so visit often. During the semester we will comment in this space on primary and secondary readings, assignments, and class discussion. Anyone in the course can post an entry, and anyone can comment on any entry. If you have questions please contact Leslie Bary at

The Course

We are studying narratives of voyages to and from jungles – stories which engage the apparent dichotomies of barbarism and “civilization,” primitive and modern, margin and center. Why it is that the jungle trope is so salient in modern Latin American literature, and how the Latin American texts interact with their European counterparts – also obsessed with jungles – is our main inquiry.

This course can be taken as a Spanish, Honors, or Humanities course. The workload involves active participation in class discussion, a journal, an oral presentation or two, and two papers or a take-home midterm and final. Lecture and discussion will be in English. Students may do readings in English or in the original, and may write papers in any language I can read. Spanish majors and minors must complete reading and writing assignments in Spanish.

Some Primary Texts

M. de Andrade, Macunaíma.
Blank, L. Burden of Dreams.
Carpentier A., Los pasos perdidos / The Lost Steps.
Conrad, J., Heart of Darkness.
Kipling, R., The Jungle Book.
Rivera, J. E., La Vorágine / The Vortex.
Sarmiento, D. F., Facundo, or, Civilization and Barbarism.
Vargas Llosa, M., La casa verde / The Green House.
Voltaire, F., Candide.

Some secondary readings and films (to be used for research, as background, and/or as material for oral presentations):

Williams, R. The Country and the City
Torgovnick, M. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives
Said, E. Orientalism
Price, S. Primitive Art in Civilized Places


La muralla verde

Apocalypse Now

There is more detailed information on readings, film, and other resources in the tabs across the top of this page. Below are syllabus materials for current and recent versions of the course.


On workload: SPRING 2011: There will be weekly journal entries and/or brief quizzes, two oral presentations (one on either Williams or Darío, the other on your research project), a shorter paper (5-6 pp.) at midterm, and a longer one (based on your research project) at the end of the course. Active participation in class discussion is expected.

SPRING 2008: There will be weekly journal entries (tentatively to be posted in these pages), an oral presentation on one of our secondary sources, and a take-home midterm and final. Active participation in class discussion is expected.

Journal entries: These will be written weekly except in the first week of classes, the week of the midterm, and the last week. They will consist of close readings in some weeks, and thematic commentary in others.

Sample oral presentation/research topic: Kipling’s Jungle Book vs. the Disney videos; consider also the representation of the primitive in other works of Kipling’s such as “The White Man’s Burden,” and/or postcolonial considerations of Kipling as an imperialist writer. [Note: a glance through the MLA Bibliography or JSTOR will net you numerous references on this theme.] Strongly suggested oral presentation topics will include or involve our secondary readings and films.

Tentative Schedule, Spring 2011:

Week 1: Introduction and Film, The Couple in Cage

Weeks 2-3: Torgovnick, and introduction to Facundo

Week 4: Facundo

Week 5: Research preparation: Darío and Williams, while seeing the Les Blank film

Week 6: Group presentations on Williams and Darío

Week 7: Paper preparation (Tuesday) and introduction to Gallegos (Thursday); papers due Friday.

Weeks 8-10: Gallegos and Gallegos film, and work toward research projects

Week 11: Andrade, and work toward research projects

Week 12: Said, and work toward research projects

Weeks 13-14: Rivera, and work toward research projects

Week 15: Research presentations


Tentative Schedule, Spring 2008:

Week I: Introduction: The Couple in the Cage and Gone Primitive. Discussion: colonialism and the anthropological gaze; the fascination with the primitive in modern art.

Required Reading: Gone Primitive, Chapter 1 (pp. 3-41), “Defining the Primitive”

January 22: Introduction.
January 24: Viewing and discussion of The Couple in the Cage; lecture and discussion on Gone Primitive.

Week II. What are jungles? Exoticism, gender, “othering,” race.  The Jungle Book, Tarzan, Burden of Dreams.

Required Reading: Gone Primitive, Chapter 2 (pp. 42-72), “Taking Tarzan Seriously”
Suggested Reading: The Jungle Book, Tarzan, She

January 29: Viewing of Burden of Dreams.
January 31: Discussion of the film, Gone Primitive, and the relevance of the suggested reading.

Week III. A classic jungle: Heart of Darkness.
Suggested Reading: Gone Primitive, Chapter 7 (pp. 141-158), “Traveling with Conrad”

Week IV. Jungle and “desert:” Facundo.
Suggested Reading: Edward Said’s Orientalism

Weeks V-VI. The jungle and the modern: The Lost Steps.
Additional (required) reading: Gone Primitive, Chapter 3 (pp. 75-84), “But is it Art?”
Suggested (but not required) reading: Gone Primitive, Chapters 4-6 (pp. 85-137) and 8 (159-174), on primitivism, racism, sexism, colonialism, and the world of modern art.

Week VII. Midterm.
a. First set of oral presentations  (see suggested reading, week II; additional suggestions for Spanish majors include more extensive study of Sarmiento, the gauchesca, and the “desert” motif, or a consideration of the primitive in Carpentier)
b. Midterm

Weeks VIII-IX. Critical jungles: The Vortex.
Suggested reading: Gone Primitive, chapter 9 (177-191), “Adventurers”

Weeks X-XI. Metacritical jungles: Macunaíma.
Suggested reading: Gone Primitive, chapters 10 and 11 (194-223), “Entering Freud’s Study” and “Remembering with Lévi-Strauss”

Weeks XII-XIII. Political jungles: The Green House.
Suggested Reading: Gone Primitive, chapter 12 (227-243), “Physicality”

Week XIV. Guess who also went to the jungle? Candide!
Suggested Reading: Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality,” Montaigne, “On Cannibals”

Week XV.

a. Second group of oral presentations [but maybe move these to other days]
b. General discussion and presentation by Leslie on Oswald de Andrade’s Cannibalist Manifesto.

Suggested reading: Gone Primitive, Epilogue (pp. 244-248); Lévy-Bruhl, The Primitive Mentality

Possible FINAL EXAM question: relate one of the texts to Torgovnick’s epilogue (refine this and perhaps make the midterm similar).



Primary Texts for Spring 2011

Scroll down to the 2008 and general lists for ideas on texts for your research project. Also look at texts and resources mentioned in other tabs.


Carpentier, Los pasos perdidos/The Lost Steps
Gallegos, Doña Bárbara/Madame Barbara
Rivera, La vorágine/The Vortex
Sarmiento, Facundo/Civilization and Barbarism
Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives
Williams, The Country and the City


Poetry by R. Darío, O. de Andrade’s “Cannibalist Manifesto,” Les Blank’s film Burden of Dreams, Coco Fusco’s video The Couple in the Cage, lectures by Edward Said, film and tv versions of Doña Bárbara.

Primary Readings and Films, Spring 2008:

M. de Andrade, Macunaíma. This title is out of print and we will have it available in the library. The bookstore will not order used copies, but we can. Here is a review of the film of this book, which we will see if we have time. People who can read the novel in the original Portuguese are encouraged to do so.

Blank, L. Burden of Dreams. We will see this film in class and have it available for reference.

Carpentier A., The Lost Steps. At the bookstore in English and Spanish.

Conrad, J., Heart of Darkness. At the bookstore, but follow the link and you will see you can also read it online.

Kipling, R., The Jungle Book. We will read selections from this text which is not actually a novel but a series of short stories. So many online editions are available that I have not ordered it at the bookstore, although paper editions can easily be borrowed or bought. I will not be presenting the Disney videos of this text, but a comparison of the videos and the text is a suggested oral presentation topic.

Rivera, J. E., The Vortex. Available at the bookstore in Spanish and English. [The English version we have ordered is from Panamericana Editorial (September 2003), ISBN-10: 9583008044, ISBN-13: 978-9583008047. The excellent Ayacucho edition, in Spanish, can be downloaded from the Editorial Ayacucho site for free in .pdf.]

Sarmiento, D. F., Facundo, or, Civilization and Barbarism. We will read selections from this text in English and Spanish. It is available in the library but since we will only read brief selections I have not ordered it for the bookstore. The entire text in the Ayacucho edition can be downloaded for free in .pdf.

Vargas Llosa, M. The Green House. This text is not at the bookstore and I have determined it will be easier for us to read it at libraries or get it from Amazon (or a similar store) in Spanish or English.

Voltaire, F. Candide. Anyone who wishes to do so is encouraged to read this text in the original French.

Secondary Readings and Films:

Williams, R. The Country and the City
Torgovnick, M. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives
Said, Orientalism (available at UL Library; see also Said links on Resources page here)
Price, S. Primitive Art in Civilized Places
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind.


La muralla verde
Apocalypse Now

Also to be discussed in class:

Andrade, O. de, The Cannibalist Manifesto
Fusco, C., The Couple in the Cage

Additional texts of thematic interest:

Bopp, Raúl. Cobra Norato.
Chateaubriand, François-René. Atala.
Echeverría, Esteban. La cautiva. Link is to full text. See Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel’s good, brief rundown of some key scholarship on this text.
Leiris, Michel. L’âge d’homme / Manhood.
Vargas Llosa, M. El Hablador / The Storyteller.
—, La guerra del fin del mundo. This is a 1980′s re-imagining of Euclides da Cunha‘s famous Rebellion in the Backlands – not about the jungle but about the Brazilian sertão, another location of the rural Other.
Zorilla de San Martín, Juan. Tabaré.


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