Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

John Stevenson

Second Advisor

Jeff Cox

Third Advisor

Jillian Heydt-Stevenson

Fourth Advisor

Laura Winkiel

Fifth Advisor

Lee Chambers

Abstract

“The Universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats” – so begins Brillat-Savarin’s gastro-philosophical treatise, The Physiology of Taste. Consumer movements in eighteenth-century England, a period dubbed a “world of goods” by John Brewer, demonstrate that seen broadly, the universe is also nothing without objects. The influence of the physical world on representations of self, status, and national identity is also bound up with any analysis of the edible –insomuch as life depends on food, food becomes central to recognizing the significance of materiality for the body both in the form of sustenance and also in the manner in which eating invokes the physicality of being.

This project aims to demonstrate that the very same matter that sustains life – food – demands further attention in literary study. While attention to food has become a very trendy contemporary subject – a quick glance at the abundance of food blogs, magazines, cooking shows, cook books, and even the term “foodie” demonstrates that this is, indeed, a focus for the 21st century – it has largely been obfuscated throughout the study of art.

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