Food and eating in fiction since 1950 with particular reference to the writing of Angela Carter, Doris Lessing, Michele Roberts and Alice Thomas Ellis
Eating is a fundamental activity. What people eat, how and with whom, what they feel about food, what they do or do not want to eat and why - even who they eat - are of crucial significance in any reading of human behaviour. In this thesis, I consider the diverse and complex uses of food and eating in fiction since 1950, especially that written by women. I argue both that food and eating carry much of the meaning of a novel or story and that the acts of cooking, feeding and eating depicted are inseparable from issues of power and control: individually, interpersonally, culturally, politically. My discussion centres on the writing of Angela Carter, Doris Lessing, Michele Roberts and Alice Thomas Ellis. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, sociology, anthropology, Foucault, Bakhtin and others, the thesis aims to construct an interdisciplinary perspective which both resists reductive interpretations and emphasises the centrality, complexity and diversity of food and eating in literature in our culture. I begin with an examination of the ambiguities of maternal feeding and nurturing, moving on to explore the links between appetite, eating and sexuality. I explore cannibalism and vampirism as manifestations of oppression, but also as indicating insatiable emptiness and transgressive appetite. The body itself is crucial, and my argument considers the paradox of not eating as control/enslavement, also tracing self-starvation as a positive route towards wholeness and connection. The last part of my argument focuses on social eating, examining conventions, rituals and food itself in connection with power relations, and finally considers how we might truly speak of food and eating in the context of society as a whole.