Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Modernism often reveled in the loss of control, the permeation of personal boundaries, the introduction of ambiguity, that evocation of the senses brings about. It strove to loosen the structures and categories culture inscribes. In this dissertation, I argue that food scenes constitute the crux of many pivotal moments in Modernist fiction and express a philosophy of the human subject. Modernists argue that, in eating, a person takes the outside world into him or herself. The senses that precede, imbue and follow eating threaten and transcend the integrity of the subject. I argue that by foregrounding such moments, Modernists posited a phenomenological view of subjectivity, one which can best be illuminated by the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Guided by his theory of intersubjectivity, I explore the phenomenological presentation of particular sensual encounters with food in the work of Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Willa Cather. I show how characters, in their encounters with sensual otherness, feel themselves overcome in poignant moments of ecstasy, disgust, or revelation of self-constitution through the alimentary. I also argue that Modernist fiction does not only display Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, but also nuances his timeless and placeless presentation of the encounter between a universal subject and any object, by considering the sensual eating experience within various historical food conditions, such as the explosion of the canned food industry and the gradual dissolution of the formal meal, and from various subject positions, based on gender, ethnicity or relative political empowerment. In engaging phenomenology, my project deviates from the long tradition in scholarship of considering symbolic and structural meanings to the occlusion of sense. In each eating scene I explore I consider how gustatory, haptic, and aromatic properties of food objects--such as liquidness, sweetness, bloodiness and lightness--intervene in more cerebral human relations. Fundamental to the fascinating Modernist depictions of food and eating, is the idea that the senses have an undeniable impact on human affairs in their own right.
Copyright 2009 Lisa Angelella
Angelella, Lisa. "Alimentary modernism." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2009.