Food in Literature
Food in Literature
Eating is a fundamental human activity, an activity that is both necessary for survival and inextricably connected with social function. Eating habits and rituals, the choice of dining companions, and the reasons behind these behaviors are fundamental to fostering an understanding of human society. Recent psychoanalytic theory suggests that eating practices are essential to self-identity and are instrumental in defining family, class, and even ethnic identity. Although food and related imagery have long been part of literature, psychological theories have led to the examination of food and eating as a universal experience. Themes related to food are common among all types of writing, and they are often used as a literary device for both visual and verbal impact. For example, food-related images in the theater are commonly used to create a mood or convey an idea. Food is also a significant theme in literature by and about women and in children's literature.
A common setting related to food in children's literature is teatime. Usually employed to dramatize states of harmony or disharmony, teatime is used to great effect in such works as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1866), in which Alice learns to come to terms with the world around her via her experiences at the Mad Hatter's distinctly uncivilized tea party. Food and order images are also used liberally in such tales as Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1961), where food denotes coziness and plenty. In addition to reflecting social order and civilization, food is often representative of the limitations imposed upon a child's world, blending well with the idea of excess as a key element of childhood fantasy. For example, Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen (1963) uses food as a vehicle to express strong childhood emotions, and, like many other children's texts, uses rituals of eating as a metaphor for the power struggle inherent to family dynamics.
Food offers a means for powerful imagery in adult literature as well. Visual images in the works of such authors as Katherine Anne Porter and Margaret Atwood are often used to increase the realism in their writing. Details about food in such collections as Porter's Flowering Judas and Other Stories (1935) create a powerful sense of richness and convey the indefinability of human experience, representing an external and physical manifestation of human complexity. Likewise, food and drink play an important role in drama, especially on stage. In his essay on Sam Shepard's work, Charles G. Whiting notes that the playwright often makes eating and drinking an important and significant activity, something that is not only used to achieve realism but also to accentuate the action on stage. Whiting notes that Shepard's staging in particular uses food to create spectacle as well as visionary mythic imagery. In the same way, food is used in poetry as a sensual and sensory object. Specifically focusing on the role of fruit in poetry, Carol E. Dietrich notes that it often represents nature, offering the poet an objective symbol of the presence of God. Among fiction writers, Ernest Hemingway was noteworthy in his ability to create a particular mood though his fictional accounts of food. Hemingway often had his expatriate characters eat native foods, allowing them emotional access to the world they were inhabiting.
Dining rituals often provide a framework that both reflects and expresses human desires and behaviors. Many authors, Edith Wharton primary among them, have used the ritual of dining to present the powerful conflicts that simmer underneath the surface of order. Additionally, food metaphors are often used to characterize people and their status in society. This is especially evident in the works of such authors as Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor, who often use food images to explore the struggle for an African-American identity. Food has been acknowledged as a key indicator of ethnicity. In their essay on the role of food, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Claude Fischler demonstrated that the domain of food includes appetite, desire, and pleasure, but also serves as a reference point for society's structure and world vision. In his analysis of Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior (1976), Paul Outka notes that her memoir, using stories, recipes, and reminiscences, portrays the transcultural writer as an exile from both Chinese and Western cultures. Her attempts to enunciate a self that is both enduring and dynamic are revealed in her passionate concerns with food, as she learns to resist both physically and psychologically the message of Chinese patriarchy that women are nothing more than bodies, unworthy even of nourishment.
Food and its related concerns with feminine identity and domesticity have been given a central place in many works of women's literature. For example, authors such as Margaret Atwood have used food and eating disorders to address issues of gender, language, and sexual politics, as well as social dislocation. In her essay on The Edible Woman (1969), Tracy Brain notes that in this novel Atwood uses anorexia to explore women's strategies to develop alternative languages. For feminists, the kitchen has symbolized the marginalization of women. In contrast, however, many Hispanic women writers have used the domesticity of women, as symbolized by the kitchen, as a vehicle for their creativity and for promoting female solidarity. In her essay on Como Aqua Para Chocolate, (1989; Like Water for Chocolate Janice Jaffe examines Laura Esquivel's novel from this perspective, noting that in contrast to the view that considers women's confinement to the kitchen restricting, Esquivel has reclaimed the kitchen in her novel, affirming it as a woman's domain.
Briciole [Crumbs] (novel) 1994
The Edible Woman (novel) 1969
Lady Oracle (novel) 1976
Wuthering Heights (novel) 1847
Fraud (novel) 1992
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (novel) 1866
Como agua para chocolate [Like Water for Chocolate] (novel) 1989
The Wind in the Willows (novel) 1961
The Sun Also Rises (novel) 1926
A Farewell to Arms (novel) 1929
“A Painful Case” (short stroy) 1914
Maxine Hong Kingston
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts (memoir) 1976
A. M. Klein
The Second Scroll (novel) 1951
The Bluest Eye (novel) 1970
Sula (novel) 1973
Song of Solomon (novel) 1977
Tar Baby (novel) 1981
Linden Hills (novel) 1985
Katherine Anne Porter
Flowering Judas and Other Stories (short stories) 1935
The Complete Stories (short stories) 1982
Una fame da morire...
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Criticism: Food And Children's Literature
SOURCE: “Some Uses of Food in Children's Literature,” in Children's Literature in Education, Vol. 11, No. 4, Winter, 1980, pp. 192-99.
[In the following essay, Katz presents an overview of the theme of food and its uses in children's literature, focusing on such texts as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Hobbit.]
When Lewis Carroll's Dormouse begins his story about the three little sisters who lived at the bottom of a well, Alice breaks in almost immediately to ask “What did they live on?”1 Carroll's narrator, accounting for this curious interruption before the Dormouse's answer of “treacle,” tells us that Alice “always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.”2 The scene is the mad tea-party in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and questions of eating and drinking, against such a backdrop of tea and bread and butter, appear perfectly natural. Yet Alice, as we know, is a prototypical hero of children's literature, and her concerns are echoed by other children's book heroes. Children's literature is filled with food-related images, notions, and values: hospitality, gluttony, celebration, tradition, appetite, obesity. Food comes to play, for reasons as fascinating as they are obvious, a unique and significant role in this literature. Understand the relations between the labourer and the means of production, says Marx, and you...
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SOURCE: “Maurice Sendak's Ritual Cooking of the Child in Three Tableaux: The Moon, Mother, and Music,” in Children's Literature, Vol. 18, 1990, pp. 68-86.
[In the following essay, Perrot examines the rituals surrounding food and their significance in children's lives in the works of Maurice Sendak.]
To Music Mother of Memory and Feeder of Dreams.
WRITTEN RIDDLES FOR A CURTAIN-RAISER: JEWISH SALT IN THE POT
To enter the fantastic world of Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen brings the sheer literary delight of discovering a peculiar inventive process at work: a child is being “cooked” with all the author's literal refinements, and with what typical ingredients, in what a whimsical universe! The illustrator's tale abides by rules progressively defined in English humorous writing for children. In some ways it recalls the surprising events in the Duchess's kitchen of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: the flying saucepan, the baby that Alice would like to nurse like a doll and that is transformed into a pig, the cook “busily stirring the soup” (16) are major figures in a rite of nineteenth-century English girls' education. In like manner, Mickey's adventures transform him into an efficient cultural auxiliary to adult catering; no mere saucepans fly in his night kitchen, but Mickey himself takes off...
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Criticism: Food As A Literary Device
SOURCE: “Mentioning the Tamales: Food and Drink in Katherine Anne Porter's Flowering Judas and Other Stories,” in Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 1, Winter, 1984-85, pp. 44-57.
[In the following essay, Gwin discusses food related visual images and how they are used in Porter's short stories, noting that the rich descriptions enhance the realism of Porter's writing.]
Many efforts have been made to penetrate what Eudora Welty has called, with deliberate contradiction, “the eye” of Katherine Anne Porter's fictional art.1 Welty finds this “eye”—the penetrating vision of Porter's stories—to be interior, subjective, and nonsensory. Yet, even though Porter often eschews visual images, choosing to “see” within rather than without, her fiction, in Welty's judgment, intensifies rather than diminishes life.2 We may gain a deeper understanding of this apparent paradox by observing Porter's sensitivity to the rich textures of life and her startlingly complex renderings of those textures as both interior and exterior manifestations of the same reality. Consistently Porter's oeuvre has the quality of realistic specificity infused with a compelling sense of mystery. As a whole her work may be seen as play between these two elements, the exterior and the interior, the realistic and the mysterious.
Particularly in Porter's first collection,...
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SOURCE: “Food and Drink in Shepard's Theater,” in Modern Drama, Vol. 31, No. 2, June, 1988, pp. 175-83.
[In the following essay, Whiting analyzes the use of food and drink in the staging of Shepard's plays, theorizing that they are significant contributors to setting the mood in various scenes.]
Half of Sam Shepard's published plays have food or drink onstage at or very near the beginning, and in at least half of his plays food and drink play an important role. Except perhaps for lobster in Cowboy Mouth and tequila in the same play and in Fool for Love, these are always very ordinary comestibles, but never are they used by Shepard merely to achieve an effect of realism or naturalism, nor are they ever presented to the spectator in an unremarkable or banal manner. In one way or another, Shepard always makes them noticeable and significant. From the beginning he has been aware of theater as spectacle and has known how to exploit all the visual possibilities of food and drink on the stage. The first scene of The Rock Garden (1964) is played in total silence, thus accentuating what is seen. The setting is simple, uncomplicated, focusing the audience's attention on a father and two children seated at a table. The father is totally absorbed in a magazine, and Shepard specifies that “The only action is that of the Boy and Girl drinking milk.”1 The...
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SOURCE: “The Raw and the Cooked: The Role of Fruit in Modern Poetry,” in Mosaic, Vol. 24, No. 3-4, Summer/Fall, 1991, pp. 127-44.
[In the following essay, Dietrich examines the use of the fruit metaphor in modern poetry.]
Claude Lévi-Strauss once proposed that some foods are chosen not because they are “good to eat” but because they are “good to think” (Totemism 89). Indeed, when we think about food, we are often ambivalent in our conception of the moral status of eating and drinking. On the one hand, ingestion supplies the imagery of our largest and most intense experiences: we speak of the wine of life and the cup of life; we speak also of its dregs and lees; sorrow is something to be drunk from a cup; shame and defeat are wormwood and gall; divine providence is manna or milk and honey; we hunger and thirst for righteousness; we starve for love; we speak of the fruit of our labors; and certain foods function as symbols—bread and salt are signs of peace and loyalty, bread and wine the elements of the most solemn acts of religion. On the other hand, while we tend to represent all of significant life by the tropes of eating and drinking, we do so with some reservation. We realize that much of the world suffers from the ravages of starvation and dehydration and accordingly that we also suffer from collective amnesia regarding social justice when we succumb to gluttony, drunkenness,...
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SOURCE: “Food for Fiction: Lessons from Ernest Hemingway's Writing,” in Journal of American Culture, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer, 1992, pp. 87-90.
[In the following essay, Underhill and Nakjavani present an overview of Hemingway's use of food and related imagery in his novels.]
More than any other American writer, Ernest Hemingway inspired the lifestyle of “living it up to write it down.” He traveled the world, drove an ambulance in World War II, boxed, married four times, hunted big game in Africa and big fish in the Gulf Stream. In general, he sampled most of what life had to offer, including the food and drink of many nations. He conveyed his experiences through his memoirs and newspaper articles, many of which appeared in the Toronto Star. “As a reporter and correspondent …” says William White, editor of the two published volumes of Hemingway's journalism, “Hemingway soaked up persons and places and life like a sponge; these were to become matter for his short stories and novels” (By-Linexii.). As White points out, Hemingway simply transferred nonfiction accounts to fictitious narratives. It was this “voice of experience and much-traveled source of inside information,” as Charles Scribner Jr. called it (Foreword Dateline) which was responsible for his much imitated persona as well as the success of his fiction.
In his fictional accounts of food,...
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Criticism: Rituals Invloving Food
SOURCE: “Duffy's Last Supper: Food, Language, and the Failure of Integrative Processes in ‘A Painful Case,’” in Irish Renaissance Annual, Vol. 4, 1983, pp. 118-27.
[In the following essay, Tucker discusses the relationship of food and religious ritual in James Joyce's story “A Painful Case.”]
Any discussion of James Joyce's “A Painful Case” comes up against three troublesome concerns. First, the story is one that Joyce considered one of the two weakest in Dubliners.1 Second, it contains a considerable amount of autobiographical detail lifted directly from the diary of his brother Stanislaus.2 Debate over whether this material was well assimilated has led to consideration of the third problem, the seemingly disparate clusters of images to be found in the story. These images—mainly religious and gastronomic—have not always served to clarify meaning, partly because the story is also concerned with the use of language and the dilemma of a would-be artist whose bifurcated personality and emotional impoverishment render him artistically sterile.
The presence of these different elements has produced a number of interesting analyses of the character of Duffy. Because of the numerous references to food and body functions, one critic has seen Duffy as a man of humors.3 Another has argued for Duffy as a compulsion neurotic, a latent...
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SOURCE: “The Rituals of Dining in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence,” in The Midwest Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4, Summer, 1993, pp. 465-80.
[In the following essay, Davis theorizes that Wharton's dining scenes are metaphorical representations of the social and personal relationships among her characters.]
The act of dining fascinated Edith Wharton as a social ritual exposing aspects of human behavior that people in her world preferred to conceal. Beneath the complex etiquette of their formal dinners she saw people torn by rivalries, revolts, hostilities, and betrayals. In their social posturings they could divert and deceive where concealment was crucial. Dining ritual also afforded her opportunities for satirizing the social elite and the nouveaux riches—the former intent upon preserving their exclusivity, the latter upon penetrating aristocracy's Fifth Avenue dining rooms, its restaurants, receptions, and balls.
As John F. Kasson explains in his essay, “The Rituals of Dining,” the elaborate etiquette which typified “respectable and successful” Victorian Americans helped to define and control their behavior in two ways: it afforded them an acceptable mode of expressing personal desires; conversely, it provided in its traditional social and ethical code a framework for repressing those desires. The dining ritual, according to Kasson, “mediated between...
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SOURCE: “Breakfast at Flannery's,” in Modern Age, Vol. 38, No. 3, Summer, 1996, pp. 245-52.
[In the following essay, York offers a survey of dining and mealtime rituals as portrayed in Flannery O'Connor's short stories.]
Flannery O'Connor made the peacock as familiar a cachet of Southern fiction as the Persians made the phoenix of mystical iconography. The two great birds can still be found together in Georgia, O'Connor's peacock feathers shared with countless established and aspiring writer-friends of hers, and the fabled phoenix on the great seal of the City of Atlanta. How fowl came to play so large a role in O'Connor's imagination is as mysterious as the phoenix of legend, but the chronology of her interest in birds and their eggs is recorded in her letters. The record begins early and earnestly: she wrote on March 3, 1957, of eating a good egg for breakfast, which left her “galvanized for the rest of the day.” No reader of her stories or her letters can doubt that whether from eggs or from some other source of inspiration, O'Connor was indeed “startled into sudden activity.” Seven months later, on October 8, she writes of “keeping my mind on the important things, like peachickens.” By Groundhog day of the following year, the behavior of the fowl has become for her a kind of metaphor for human behavior, for she can “understand their world thoroughly.” By May 6 of the next year,...
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SOURCE: “The ‘Sweet Life’ in Toni Morrison's Fiction,” in American Literature, Vol. 56, No. 2, 1984, pp. 181-202.
[In the following essay, House explains that Morrison relies heavily on food metaphors to convey images of an idyllic life and dreams of success in the lives of her characters.]
In each of her novels, The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Tar Baby (1981), Toni Morrison juxtaposes two categories of people's dreams and aspirations, visions of how life should be lived. The first dreamtypes are idyllic, for their proponents' chief aims are to live in concord with people and nature while remaining true to their own heritage. In contrast, dreams in the second category advocate not brotherhood but the competitive acquisition of power or money. Based on values of an American society which cherishes outward “success,” these second-category dreams teach that happiness lies in attaining power, that personal worth comes from being “number one.”
Throughout all four books, Morrison affirms the superiority of idyllic values over competitive-success ones; she clearly details the negative consequences of valuing power or wealth more than other people. Yet she also acknowledges the difficulty of being altruistic in twentieth-century America, the milieu which influences most of her characters. Morrison's first three novels...
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SOURCE: “The Confluence of Food and Identity in Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills: ‘What We Eat is Who We Is,’” in College Language Association Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, September, 1993, pp. 1-18.
[In the following essay, Toombs theorizes that in Linden Hills, Naylor offers food consumption as a viable way of understanding problematic issues regarding African-American identity.]
Yet the people went on living and reproducing in spite of the bad food. Most of the children had straight bones, strong teeth. But it couldn't go on like that. Even the strongest heritage would one day run out.
—Ann Petry, The Street
Gloria Naylor's second novel, Linden Hills (1985), presents a scathing examination of the precarious struggle for African-American identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The novel, concerned with an exploration of the fictional middle-class black community of Linden Hills, devotes a significant amount of its attention to detailing the ways in which some African Americans efface themselves as they try to be both Americans and African Americans. In this sense, the novel records the specific consequences of W. E. B. Du Bois's well-known double-consciousness idea.1 However, the novel does so by positioning most of the contemporary inhabitants of Linden Hills as educated...
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SOURCE: “Spanish American Women Writers: Simmering Identity over a Low Fire,” in Studies in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter, 1996, pp. 147-65.
[In the following essay, Bilbija examines the exploration of Latin-American identity through the use of kitchen and alchemy metaphors in the fiction of such authors as Laura Esquivel and Silvia Plager.]
“… for example, food is to be eaten; but it also serves to signify (conditions, circumstances, tastes); food is therefore a signifying system, and must one day be described as such.”
—Roland Barthes, Critical Essays
“One man's cookbook is another woman's soft porn.”
—Margaret Atwood “Introducing The CanLit Foodbook”
When Virginia Woolf argues in A Room of One's Own for an appropriate and pertinent place for a woman, she never mentions the kitchen as a possible space in which her intellectual liberation from the patriarchal system could be enacted.1 At first glance, this area had always been assigned to a wife, servant, daughter, slave, mother, grandmother, sister or an aunt. For feminists, the kitchen has come to symbolize the world that traditionally marginalized and limited a woman. It represents a space associated with repetitive work, lacking...
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SOURCE: “The Ethno-Semiotics of Food: A. M. Klein's ‘Second Scroll’ as Recipe for Multiculturalism,” in Mosaic, Vol. 29, No. 3, September, 1996, pp. 15-33.
[In the following essay, Dvorak presents an analysis of the social and political nature of food in Klein's Second Scroll, noting that the novel represents the author's efforts to recover an ethno-religious heritage.]
Ottawa's two-decade-old policy of encouraging immigrants to preserve and enhance their heritage, coupled with the current high levels of nonwhite immigration, have transformed Canada into a multiracial, pluri-ethnic society. Yet at the same time that major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which accept 60٪ of all immigrants, are becoming multicultural, fear and resentment have been rising with respect to unemployment, property, and the demands on services such as education and health. The conflicting ideologies of Reform M.P.s and the federal Minister of Education have catalyzed debate over Canada's commitment to multiculturalism: a flurry of alarmist publications have argued that Canadians are surrendering their country (Jud Cyllorn's attack on immigration policy in Stop Apologizing), or else that multiculturalist policy leads to ghettoization (Neil Bissoondath's Selling Illusions), or even that it has caused the demise of the bicultural society of Canada's two founding nations and...
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SOURCE: “Publish or Perish: Food, Hunger, and Self-Construction in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior,” in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 38, No. 3, Fall, 1997, pp. 447-82.
[In the following essay, Outka contends that Kingston's autobiographical memoir blends myths, stories, and fiction to create a transcultural identity for the author.]
Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts is a difficult book to define generically. Kingston originally intended it for publication as a novel, but Knopf thought it would sell better as nonfiction and labeled the first printing as such.1 The publisher's strategy worked: in 1976, the year it was published, the book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best work of nonfiction. Most of the book, however, is fictional—a collection of stories, myths, embellished episodes, and bewildering shifts in authorial perspective, time, and, especially, setting. Vintage International, unable to decide what the book is, yet unwilling to give up, puts the somewhat contradictory—indeed, unintentionally deconstructive—label “Nonfiction/Literature” on the cover of the most recent edition.
Many critics have found themselves in a position similar to Vintage's. Debates and discussions continue over whether the book is fiction, history, autobiography, biography, or some strange mix,...
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Criticism: Women's Relationship With Food
SOURCE: “Hispanic American Women Writers' Novel Recipes and Laura Esquivel's Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate),” in Women's Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2, March, 1993, pp. 217-30.
[In the following essay, Jaffe studies the symbol of the kitchen in Esquivel's novel, contending that it serves as a mode for women's creativity as well as a means to promote female solidarity.]
During the same era that inspired the suspicion of women's activities in the kitchen cited in my epigraph,1 the Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz boldly celebrates the phenomena of the kitchen as worthy of philosophical observation:
And what shall I tell you, lady, of the natural secrets I have discovered while cooking? I see that an egg holds together and fries in butter or in oil, but, on the contrary, in syrup shrivels into shreds; observe that to keep sugar in a liquid state one need only add a drop or two of water in which a quince or other bitter fruit has been soaked; observe that the yolk and the white of one egg are so dissimilar that each with sugar produces a result not obtainable with both together. I do not wish to weary you with such inconsequential matters, and make mention of them only to give you full notice of my nature, for I believe they will be occasion for laughter. But, lady, as women, what wisdom may be ours if not the philosophies...
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SOURCE: “Figuring Anorexia: Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman,” in Literature Interpretation Theory, Vol. 6, No. 3-4, 1995, pp. 299-311.
[In the following essay, Brain theorizes that Atwood uses anorexia in her novel as a means to explore women's strategies for developing alternative languages.]
In her novel The Edible Woman, written in 1965 and published in 1969, Margaret Atwood prefigures contemporary debate about the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Though the word anorexia is never used in the text, Atwood examines the condition and its meanings with a sophistication rarely equalled in subsequent discussions of the illness. Atwood uses anorexia to address issues of gender, language, sexual politics and social dislocation.
I will begin by setting the social context out of which The Edible Woman came, as well as examining the medical and psychoanalytic discourses on anorexia that it anticipates. I will then argue that Atwood uses anorexia in The Edible Woman to explore women's strategies for developing alternative languages, evaluating not just the advantages of such strategies, but also the dangers. Atwood shows how anorexia is culturally critical as well as complicit. It is an expression of a woman's perception of herself as consumer and victim and a means of resisting such roles. Stressing its paradoxes, Atwood constitutes anorexia as acquiescence...
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SOURCE: “You Are What You Eat: The Politics of Eating in the Novels of Margaret Atwood,” in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 41, No. 3, Fall, 1995, pp. 349-68.
[In the following essay, Parker contends that eating is a political act in Atwood's novels, denoting power and control over one's body.]
While literature is suffused with scenes of men eating, there is a conspicuous absence of images of women engaged in the same activity. Margaret Atwood displays a sensitive awareness of how images of women eating have been suppressed and erased. She remarks, “I think I first connected literature with eating when I was twelve and reading Ivanhoe: there was Rebecca, shut up romantically in a tower, but what did she have to eat?” (CanLit Introduction). Atwood probes the prohibitions on the public display of female appetite and the social taboos which surround women and food in terms of the politics of eating. For her, eating is unequivocally political. Atwood defines “politics” as “who is entitled to do what to whom with impunity; who profits by it; and who therefore eats what” (Second 394). Women are rarely depicted eating in literature because, as Atwood's comment implies, consumption embodies coded expressions of power.
Atwood displays a profound preoccupation with eating in her writing; she has even edited a cook book. In her novels eating is employed as a...
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SOURCE: “‘No Bread Will Feed My Hungry Soul’: Anorexic Heroines in Female Fiction—from the Example of Emily Bronte as Mirrored by Anita Brookner, Gianna Schelotto and Alessandra Arachi,” in Journal of European Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1, March, 1997, pp. 73-92.
[In the following essay, Giobbi traces the relevance and meaning of anorexia in the novels of four women novelists.]
We're hungry. Hungry! But it's pitiful To wail like unweaned babes and suck our thumbs Because we're hungry. Who, in all this world (Wherein we are haply set to pray and fast And learn what good is by its opposite), Has never hungered? Woe to him who has found The meal enough! (…)
And since We needs must hunger,—better, for man's love, Than God's truth! better, for companions sweet, Than great convictions! let us bear our weights, Preferring dreary hearths to desert souls.(1)
The impact of a psychological syndrome upon a literary work may have many—explicit and implicit—consequences. Biographical input, social conditioning, self-conscious threads are bound to enrich the fictional texts, thus eliciting new and thought-provoking critical interpretations.
This is certainly the case with anorexia, a form of self-starvation which is spreading in the whole of the Western world, mostly among the female population.
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SOURCE: “The Food of Love: Mothering, Feeding, Eating and Desire,” in Food, Consumption and the Body in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 11-32.
[In the following essay, Sceats draws connections among mothers, food, and love, briefly examining the use of these motifs in the works of a variety of women authors.]
Food is a currency of love and desire, a medium of expression and communication. The crucial centrepiece of Christian worship is a simulated meal—the giving of symbolic bread and wine as a token of love and trust—and in most religions ritual communicative eating of some sort is prominent. From infants' sticky offerings to anniversary chocolates, from shared school lunch boxes to hospital grapes, the giving of food is a way of announcing connection, goodwill, love. For friends, food may be an expression of support or an invitation to celebrate; for lovers there is an intimate, sexual subtext, appetite incorporated into sexuality. In the all-important sphere of mothering, food-giving is a matter of routine; nurturing depends on repeated and regular care and feeding rather than the occasional spontaneous act and is, in theory at least, essentially altruistic.
For many people the connection of food with love centres on the mother, as a rule the most important figure in an infant's world, able to give or withhold everything that sustains,...
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Kiell, Norman. “Food in Literature: A Selective Bibliography.” Mosaic 24, No. 3-4 (Summer/Fall 1991): 211-63.
Detailed bibliography of essays dealing with food in literature, including annotations.
Beach, Cecil. “A Table: The Power of Food in French Women's Theatre.” Theatre Research International 23, No. 3 (Autumn 1998): 233-41.
Examines the metaphor of the table as related to women and food in the theater.
Biasin, Gian-Paolo. The Flavors of Modernity: Food and the Novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, pp.1-15
Essays on the use of food imagery and themes in various Italian and French novels.
Frega, Donnalee. “Speaking in Hunger: Conditional Consumption as Discourse in Clarissa.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 28, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 87-103.
Proposes that Clarissa's starvation in the novel is a powerful, erotic, and dangerous form of discourse.
Gilroy, James P. “Food, Cooking, and Eating in Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.” Twentieth Century Literature 33, No. 1 (Spring 1987): 98-109.
Discusses the role of cooking as an art form and its significance in Proust's novel.
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