Sunday 02nd of October 2022


Eating, reading, cooking, writing… Foods fit for gods, heroes, and anti-heroes in Homer and Joyce
Alison Armstrong, School of Visual Arts (New York)pdf_icon_30x30

Abstract: Expanded from my talk at the Conference on Food and Culture in Translation (FaCT), Bertinoro, May 2014, this essay discusses food ways in literature as grammar. In “Toward a Theory of Gastronomology,” The Joyce of Cooking (1986), I propose categories for textual analysis: writing and cooking analogous to reading and eating; sacrificial rites as grammar; food references as symbols and signs. The vibrations of natural organizations of hues of refracted sunlight, of musical tones, of natural relations of tastes suggest grammatical comparison among natural systems. Food ways also achieve unnatural or unmotivated abstracted cultural uses as sign systems (rather than motivated symbols); I reference Saussure (linguistics) and Roland Barthes (food).  Sacrifices by the kingly class in bronze age Greece (in Sophocles’ Antigone and Homer’s epic Odyssey) contrast to Joyce’s mock epic inhabited by banal lives in a debased Dublin dominated by England. The gods have descended through the age of heroes to inhabit the age of man in keeping with Vico’s model; communal sacrifices by heroes to gods devolved to intimate but just as honorable quasi-sacrificial food ways between men, between husband and wife.

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