Devouring: Food, Drink and the Written Word, 1800 - 1945
Saturday 8th March 2014
Keynote speakers: Nicola Humble (Roehampton) and Margaret Beetham (Salford)
Devouring is a one-day conference, to be held on Saturday 8th March 2014 at the University of Warwick, which will invite researchers from any field with an interest in the culinary cultures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to share perspectives on food, consumption and literature, providing a space to open up dialogue about narratives that explore eating, reading, and their worth. At a moment when economic and ecological pressures herald a re-appropriation of the values of wartime thrift and Victorian domestic economy, Devouring will be a timely examination of our relationship with food and drink.
Devouring will address much valuable, recent work which has sought to address Britain’s fraught relationship with food in the nineteenth century and beyond, and has helped to bolster the growing status of food studies as a discipline worthy of serious academic attention in the process. From special food-focused editions of renowned academic journals, to a major exhibition about food during World War II at the Imperial War Museum, London, much critical attention has been directed toward cultures of food and eating. Devouring will directly draw on this pool of knowledge, with involvement from well-respected scholars who have been instrumental in explorations of food and textuality.
The years 1800-1945 are marked by food adulteration scandals, the growth of the temperance movement, and significant reforms in the regulation and legislation of food standards, as well as by a relationship with food and drink made increasingly complex by wartime paucity and rationing, signaling changing ideas about the food we eat: as a commodity, a luxury item, a source of poison or nutrition, its abundance or its scarcity. Many of our most familiar texts from the period are riddled with allusions to their own relationship with food and consumption: from the ‘eat me’ and ‘drink me’ labels in Alice in Wonderland, to the seductive (but toxic) fruit of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, to Virginia Woolf’s adored luncheon parties. This is also an era in which food and the written word combine to great popularity in instructional manuals like Mrs. Beeton’s eponymous tome, still a bestseller today. Devouring will provide a much needed forum for scholars to explore these rich associations and discuss their current research.