Food in American Literature (Panel)


American/Diaspora / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Eyal Handelsman Katz (University of Virginia)

If you were to tell a friend that you were feeling under the weather, how quickly would they tell you to eat some chicken noodle soup? If you were having a bad day, how quickly would they tell you to get something to eat as a pick-me-up? If you were going through a break-up, how quickly would the big tub of ice cream come out of the freezer? For many situations in our lives, food has become synonymous with care. In literature and popular culture, the appearance of food – through the act of eating, preparing or harvesting it – often becomes a vehicle for connection between characters. When Audre Lorde writes of releasing the erotic in our lives, she compares it to spreading a pellet of yellow coloring through white margarine (“Uses of the Erotic” 57).

While food can be a source of care, fulfillment, and connection, it can also take on more nefarious roles. One can not only be punished with food – through an imposition of hunger or forced consumption – but one can also become food, literally as in the old Hansel & Gretel tale, or figuratively, as in bell hooks’ theorizing on the ways in which white supremacy consumes the Black “other” for its own gain.

This panel seeks interventions that center the role of food in literary analysis. In other words, how do literary critique and food studies converge, and what can we learn from their overlaps? To what extent does food and the processes around it – extraction, production, preparation, transportation, consumption, digestion, egestion, etc. – become central to our lives? What is the social, cultural, and political significance of food and its representations? This panel is particularly interested in papers that explore the connections between cultural/ethnic/racial/national identities and food.

These are just some of the issues we will attempt to cover. All submissions should include an abstract and a short author bio and be submitted through the NeMLA portal. Submissions that engage with minority and marginalized literatures, authors, theories, and/or texts are particularly encouraged.






How do literary critique and food studies converge, and what can we learn from their overlaps? To what extent does food and the processes around it become central to our lives? What is the social, cultural, and political significance of food and its representations? This panel is particularly interested in papers that explore connections between cultural/ethnic/racial/national identities and food.