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The Modernist Review #24: A (Moveable) Feast of Modernism

2 October 2020

2020 has meant, among many other things, spending a lot more time in our homes and, as a result, in our kitchens. Our relationship with food feels like it has changed this year. What feel like distant memories of lockdown bring back the smell of banana bread in the oven, the yeasty squidge of sourdough starters and the frustration at all the unavailable food delivery slots and seemingly-random shortages (who bought up all the flour in the country?). A seriously surreal section of the internet claimed everything is cake (including, we suppose, this editorial), Robert Pattinson sprinkled cornflakes on pasta and blew up his microwave, Boris Johnson banned fast food adverts and asked us to count calories, and the nation found a sudden new compulsion to stockpile tins of baked beans. A quick trip to the supermarket or a meal out at a restaurant now carries its own set of risks. The gnawing anxieties about the state of the world are eating away at us and we’ve all had a lot on our respective plates. 

Continue reading “The Modernist Review #24: A (Moveable) Feast of Modernism”

Monstrous Rot: Fearing Food in Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Waves’

2 October 2020

Guy Webster, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge

A morning meal appears in the opening pages of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931). Mrs. Constable, we hear, is scraping ‘the fish-scales with a jagged knife on to a chopping board’ for breakfast. All the while, the novel’s key characters are playing outside. Louis, Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan and Rhoda are exploring the English countryside beneath the scent of sizzling fish in ‘ripples above the chimney’.[1]It is not long after this that Susan, having seen Jinny kiss Louis, prepares a meal of her own. ‘I shall eat grass’, she says, ‘and die in a ditch in the brown water where dead leaves have rotted’.[2]A few pages later and Neville overhears the cook speak of a man ‘found with his throat cut’; ‘death among the apple trees’, Neville calls it. Suddenly, the knife wielded by Mrs. Constable at the beginning of the novel is imbued with a macabre relevance. As it were, Neville tells us that the dead man’s ‘jowl was white as a dead codfish’, perhaps not too dissimilar to the fish Mrs. Constable is scraping scales off in those opening pages?[3] Continue reading “Monstrous Rot: Fearing Food in Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Waves’”

Beneath the Semblance of the Thing: Meat-Eating and the Absent Referent in Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘The Waves’

2 October 2020

Catherine Dent, Durham University

When we consume meat, we enact what Erin E. Edwards (Miami University) calls ‘the eating encounter between humans and animals’.During this ‘encounter’, the nonhuman body is assimilated – piecemeal – within the bounded human form. So often overlooked at the point of incorporation via ingestion, however, are the violent processes by which animals are killed for human consumption. Continue reading “Beneath the Semblance of the Thing: Meat-Eating and the Absent Referent in Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘The Waves’”

‘I’ll Gobble You Up’: Gender and Consumption in T. S. Eliot’s poetry

2 October 2020

Zoë Miller, University of Manchester

Content Warning: Sexual Violence, Femicide, Cannibalism

Food features prominently in T.S. Eliot’s poetry: the typist lays out her ‘food in tins’[1]; Fresca ‘caress[es]’ an ‘egg’s well-rounded dome’[2]; and Sweeney wants to ‘gobble up’ his female companion in a ‘stew’.[3]On closer inspection, however, these images of food appear to be more images of consumption, whether of convenience food, indulgent breakfast-in-bed, or, perversely, other people. As Jeff Wallace explains, the early twentieth century saw a significant shift from ‘production to consumption’, with a growing commodity culture fanned by advertising that encouraged consumerist desires.[4]I suggest that images of consumption in Eliot’s poetry reflect this burgeoning consumerism and explore the thorny interstices between food, culture, and sex. Continue reading “‘I’ll Gobble You Up’: Gender and Consumption in T. S. Eliot’s poetry”

What Will They Keep of Me, and What Will Be Waste: Walter Benjamin and The Stomach of Modernism

2 October 2020

Alessandra Occhiolini, The Graduate Center (CUNY)

What is the character of the modernist stomach, and how does it digest history? Unlike its hyper-functional nineteenth-century predecessor, the stomach of the twentieth century is metaphorically retentive, denatured into retention and distension by the virus that is violence.[1]The work of Walter Benjamin is a particularly clear example of a modernist methodology of historical retention and disorder: Arcades Project (1927-1940) does not pretend to know that the subject can parse the commodity profusion of the past and present that accumulates into history; that the individual is capable of digesting what is useful in a prompt or straightforward manner.[2]Instead, the reading experience is one in which we are forced to retain all without knowing what we will keep of the catalog before us, or if it all is in fact made to waste. Continue reading “What Will They Keep of Me, and What Will Be Waste: Walter Benjamin and The Stomach of Modernism”

The Fashionable Lack of Nourishment in Jean Rhys’ The Left Bank Short Stories.

2nd October 2020

Jennifer Cameron, University of Hertfordshire

Jean Rhys is not an author who immediately springs to mind when discussing food – alcohol maybe, but not food. However, her protagonists are often portrayed as lacking in food and this is a key factor in Rhys’ depiction of the fashionable, ‘chic’ modern woman. The 1920s were a period of significant technological and social change and in such a fast-paced, visual culture the concept of being fashionable and ‘of the moment’ was highly desirable. Fashion evolved as rapidly as society itself with a new sporty, modern silhouette which was slim-hipped, flat-chested and androgynous, and to achieve this fashionable shape without a corset, a culture of dieting arose. The 1920s saw the birth of many new diet and exercise regimes; the American Tobacco Company ran a campaign for its cigarettes, Lucky Strikes, suggesting ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet’; and Dr Lulu Hunt Peters’ diet book, Diet and Health: With Key to the Calories (1918)was a bestselling success with over two million copies sold by 1939 in more than fifty-five editions.[1] [2]

Continue reading “The Fashionable Lack of Nourishment in Jean Rhys’ The Left Bank Short Stories.”

Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford

2nd October 2020 

Nanette O’Brien, Independent Scholar

One of the most celebrated French gourmands and scholars of gastronomy, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), provides a surprising foundation for modernist thinking about taste, sensation, and culture. Brillat-Savarin describes the sensations of taste and muses on the cultural and social powers of food in his Physiologie du gout, or in English: The Physiology of Taste (1825). Two writers associated with modernism – Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein – both spent periods of their lives living in France and had an interest in Brillat-Savarin and in French cookery. In this short essay, I briefly outline Ford and Stein’s relationships to Brillat-Savarin and how he is connected to their interest in French food and culture and to Ford’s Impressionism and Stein’s abstract style. Though this essay is by no means exhaustive, I argue that in looking backwards to an idealised past inhabited by Brillat-Savarin, Stein and Ford formulated their ideas about modern food and culture.[1]

Continue reading “Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford”

Food, Femaleness and Friendship in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Fiction

2nd October 2020

Mairi Power, University of Glasgow

‘relationships are described not as people joined by blood, but those who feed one another’

Shirin Edwin [1]

In the short novels Our Sister Killjoy (1977) and Changes (1991), food is used as a metaphor through which author Ama Ata Aidoo communicates the health of relationships and the cultural differences between her characters[2] . Aidoo is an accomplished Ghanaian writer as well as an academic and political activist; she also held the role of Ghanaian Minister of Education for 18 months from 1982-83. Aidoo’s writing is an excellent example of the tension between African and European modernism, drawing heavily upon cultural difference and the lasting legacy of colonialism within the power structures of West African societies. Bringing Aidoo’s fiction into academic conversations aids in opposing a singular understanding of modernity and pushes for a less euro-centric presentation of modernist studies. [3] 

Continue reading “Food, Femaleness and Friendship in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Fiction”

Book Review: Modernism and Food Studies: Politics, Aesthetics, and the Avant-Garde

2 October 2020

Eilish Mulholland, The Queen’s University of Belfast

(eds) Jessica Martell, Adam Fajardo and Philip Keel Geheber, Modernism and Food Studies: Politics, Aesthetics, and the Avant-Garde (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2019)

Within literary studies, the topic of foodways and narrative subjects has been largely confined to culinary moments within texts. Often relating to specific foodstuffs or instances of culinary metaphors, this narrative is not beyond the realms of modernist thought. Works such as Cather’s Kitchens: Foodways in Literature and Life (2002)  by Roger and Linda K. Welsch, Tasting Modernism: An Introduction (2015) by J. Michelle Coghlan and most recently the collected volume Gastro-modernism: Food, Literature, Culture (2019) have shown a shifting attitude to contemplating modernism and its relationship with food as something more than an exercise in passive consumption. Continue reading “Book Review: Modernism and Food Studies: Politics, Aesthetics, and the Avant-Garde”

Protein Powders and Pastes: Muscle Foods for the Twentieth Century Man

Rafael Hernandez, Oklahoma State University

2 October 2020

A 1911 full-page advertisement for Eugen Sandow’s Health and Strength Cocoa features a unique take on the modernist manifesto:

The most serious problem which confronts the world to-day is that of Food. Almost imperceptively the stress of modern life has increased to such an extent that ordinary food-stuffs have ceased to be equal to the demand of body, brain, and nerve for adequate nourishment. This demand can only be satisfied by the production of foods containing a higher percentage of easily-digestible nourishment; and that nourishment must be of the highest possible efficiency. Work has become a science. Feeding must become a science too.[1]

Continue reading “Protein Powders and Pastes: Muscle Foods for the Twentieth Century Man”

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