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Title:Private supper/public feast: Gender, power, and nurture in Early Modern England
Author(s):Christensen, Ann Caroline
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Neely, Carol T.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Women's Studies
Literature, English
Abstract:The dissertation analyzes how instances of eating, preparing, and serving food in the plays of Shakespeare and Jonson are liminal activities, stationed on the threshold of old and new forms of hospitality, constructions of public and private, gender and work. Because these issues punctuate the broader economic and social restructuring of early modern England, my study contributes to the theoretical and historical discussions of gender, culture, and literature of the period. Communal feasting in these texts does not signify social harmony, but often reflects disorder and inequality among diners and anxieties about the commodification and decline of hospitality, as it both recalls and denies the possibility of truly egalitarian commensality. What's more, Shakespearean meal scenes contradict contemporary cultural practices by placing male characters in the traditionally female position of food providers. The places and processes of meals in Shakespeare's plays reveal tensions within the state, the family, and marriage about the legitimacy of women's cultural/culinary power. Jonson shows these conflicts at work in the Jacobean marketplace, in Bartholomew Fair (1614), which satirizes (and furthers) the commodification of food and hospitality, particularly as it is served by its chief merchant, Ursula the pig-woman, who deals in pork and punks "both piping hot." The text simultaneously impugns the oily if lucrative vocation (and body) of Ursula as it exonerates her as a harmless carnivalesque "fat folk." By historicizing the market woman, I argue that in the period, women's food-related activities were political and potentially transgressive. I show the interrelations among contemporary concerns about commodity exchange, the regulation of the market, the illegitimacy of women as economic rivals, the cultural value of communal eating, and the power of patriarchs to enforce their law.
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Christensen, Ann Caroline
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9210766
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9210766

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