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”

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] 

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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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