Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring One of his Sons (1820-22)
At first, Tantalus is said to have been allowed to eat at the table of the gods. What is the significance of the banquet scene? What is the meaning of the harmonious interaction between human and divine beings? What do the gods have which humans generally do not have? What is suggested when a human being partakes of what the gods have? What do nectar and ambrosia represent? What are their properties? How does the initial situation of Tantalus relate to economic issues and the provisioning process by which human beings make a living? Compare this situation to that of Adam and Eve before the fall. How is the provisioning process characterized in these narratives? What is the economic situation of human beings who live in harmony with the gods? What does it mean to live in harmony with the gods? What do the gods represent? What is the meaning of Tantalus's transgression? Does it have economic significance? Does his behavior allude in any way to a possible change in the social form of the provisioning process? What is cannibalism? Are there similarities in this respect with Adam and Eve? What is the proper form of food in each situation? What explicit or implicit limits are set to what may be eaten? Do Tantalus, Adam and Eve seem to have any similar motivations for their behavior against the gods? Why does Tantalus kill his own son? Do children have symbolic meaning? What then is the symbolic meaning of killing one's own children? What is the significance of slaughtering one's own children as if they were cattle or other form of livestock? How does the provisioning process by which humans make a living addressed here? Does Tantalus in any way pervert the aims of the provisioning process? How? How does this relate then to Tantalus's losing of the gods' favor? What has Tantalus effectively lost? What is the meaning of his punishment (to be tormented by hunger and thirst and forever reaching toward food and drink without being able to reach them)? Are there further parallels between the situation of Tantalus and that of Adam and Eve? What do these narratives attempt to establish as the natural goals and social forms of the provisioning process and economic activity in general? According to those aims, what then is considered perverse? What are the consequences of violating the "natural order"? In that general economic context, can cannibalism be ascribed a larger meaning? Does it have implications for or does it present analogies with more modern economic practices? Is it necessary to actually eat human flesh in order to become a cannibal? Are we also cannibals in any sense?
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