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Salt of the Sarkar: Interrogating the Politics of Salt in Across the Black Waters

8 February 2020

Sonakshi Srivastava, Indraprastha University

Set amidst the backdrop of World War I, Mulk Raj Anand’s Across the Black Waters (1939)  highlights the anxiety of Indian soldiers who arrive in Marseilles after having risked the dreaded ‘kala pani’, which are black waters, rumoured to bring bad luck upon anyone who dares to cross them. A series of salty gastrocentric metaphors and imageries abound in the text to pronounce brimming tensions, and ideas of servitude between the soldiers and the Sarkar, their (English) master.

Continue reading “Salt of the Sarkar: Interrogating the Politics of Salt in Across the Black Waters”

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”

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”

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