Food and the male body: narratives of consumption in the early to mid-Victorian novel

Parsons, J.E (2019) Food and the male body: narratives of consumption in the early to mid-Victorian novel. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

Abstract

There has been much scholarly work completed on women's relationship to food, and the female body in this time period. Therefore, this thesis seeks to open up new avenues in scholarship by considering men's aberrant or idealistic consumption of food in the early to mid-Victorian novel. It focuses on a range of novels by Emily Bronte, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Robert Smith Surtees in order to examine the fluctuating representations of men's eating patterns and bodies. I argue that despite the extensive critical attention that has previously been paid to women and food in this time period, an examination of her male counterpart is much needed. My work reveals discourses surrounding questions of control, psychological conditions, criminality, nationality, sexuality and Otherness embedded in the male diet and encoded in his body. My research aims to discover perceived 'acceptable' interactions with food and approved dietary consumption for men in this period. I want to explore how difference is presented via men's interactions with food and their consumption. I evaluate and explore the significance, and how much cultural weight can be attached to these forms of difference, which themselves are based upon fluctuating ideas of morality and gender. I also interrogate who exerted control over the male appetite and question how this fits into dominant narratives of contemporary gender hierarchies. This thesis develops an understanding of how food, and specifically men's relationship with food, operates within texts in order to gain a more profound understanding of early to mid- Victorian novels and their place within cultural history. It considers how male chaotic or controlled eating patterns are presented to the reader and discovers what the nature of a man's interaction with food reveals about his character or social mores. My research explores to what extent these texts play into gender categories and considers whether they reinforce them or expose them. Additionally, it interrogates to what extent manliness as manifested in the body and the diet is a source of anxiety or control for the early to mid-Victorian era. This is examined with some reference to the existing discourses that have been extensively discussed on women's relationship with food within this period. At the centre of this thesis is the establishment of the territory of normality and abnormality, and an interrogation into the instability of their boundaries.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Note:

19th century, UK, food consumption, diet, health, morality, gender, male bodies, eating patterns, literary criticism, Emily Bronte, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Robert Smith Surtees

Divisions: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2021 16:33
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2021 16:34
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