The Flavors of Modernity

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9780691032757: The Flavors of Modernity


From Rabelais's celebration of wine to Proust's madeleine and Virginia Woolf's boeuf en daube in To the Lighthouse, food has figured prominently in world literature. But perhaps nowhere has it played such a vital role as in the Italian novel. In a book flowing with descriptions of recipes, ingredients, fragrances, country gardens, kitchens, dinner etiquette, and even hunger, Gian-Paolo Biasin examines food images in the modern Italian novel so as to unravel their function and meaning. As a sign for cultural values and social and economic relationships, food becomes a key to appreciating the textual richness of works such as Lampedusa's The Leopard, Manzoni's The Betrothed, Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, and Calvino's Under the Jaguar Sun.


The importance of the culinary sign in fiction, argues Biasin, is that it embodies the oral relationship between food and language while creating a sense of materiality. Food contributes powerfully to the reality of a text by making a fictional setting seem credible and coherent: a Lombard peasant eats polenta in The Betrothed, whereas a Sicilian prince offers a monumental macaroni timbale at a dinner in The Leopard. Similarly, Biasin shows how food is used by writers to connote the psychological traits of a character, to construct a story by making the protagonists meet during a meal, and even to call attention to the fictionality of the story with a metanarrative description. Drawing from anthropology, psychoanalysis, sociology, science, and philosophy, the author gives special attention to the metaphoric and symbolic meanings of food. Throughout he blends material culture with observations on thematics and narrativity to enlighten the reader who enjoys the pleasures of the text as much as those of the palate.


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"Gian-Paolo Biasin treats his texts in a manner that is subtle but also, in the end, critically informed and powerful. No one else has possessed the mixture of critical imagination, insight, and tact to produce a study of this sort on this topic, so that Biasin's work is genuinely ground breaking."--Gregory Lucente, University of Michigan


Review:

"An interesting and original work. . ."--Modern Language Review

"[Biasin] analyzes images of food in such modern Italian novels as Calvino's Under the Jaguar Sun and Lampedusa's The Leopard; considers, for example, how writers use food to convey character psychology or to create a sense of material reality in fiction."--Chronicle of Higher Education

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