Gastronomie et littérature en France au xixe siècle. Par Karin Becker; préface de Pascal Ory.

Gastronomie et littérature en France au xixe siècle. Par Karin Becker; préface de Pascal Ory. Karin Becker’s study covers familiar ground, but does so in new ways, offering many fresh insights. Her corpus includes well-known, largely narrative works by Balzac, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Hugo, Zola, and Maupassant, analysed to explore ‘l’interaction entre gastronomie et littérature en France au xixe siècle’ (p. 9). Becker’s originality lies in the sceptical eye she casts upon gastronomic discourse and literature alike, and in her novel manner of conceptualizing the complex relationship between them. ‘Les écrits de gastronomes constituent un phénomène ambivalent, car ils oscillent entre la volonté de transmettre un savoir concret d’une part, et le plaisir de l’évocation vague et suggestive d’autre part’, she contends (p. 16), refusing either to take this savoir at face value, or to fall naively under the spell of gastronomes’ lyrical incantations. To be sure, ‘les romanciers reprennent, dans de nombreuses scènes de repas, les topoï utilisés par les gastronomes’ (p. 17), and to some extent they do so in praise of the table, thus joining gastronomes in ‘la création de ce mythe culinaire, célébré en France et exporté avec succès à l’étranger, où l’hégémonie de la cuisine française est peu souvent mise en question’ (p. 29). Yet realist and naturalist writers also use the period’s gastronomic commonplaces in subtler and more subversive ways: ‘la description de la culture gastronomique dans les romans représente, sous beaucoup d’aspects, une déconstruction ironique, sinon une critique de l’idéologie en cours au xixe siècle’ (pp. 27–28), and in this sense literary works offer ‘une contribution originale à la discussion contemporaine sur l’art de la bonne chère’ (p. 9). Becker’s rich reflection on gastronomy and literature is remarkable in its attention to detail, focusing on such neglected matters as table manners, the role of personal hygiene, and the problematic status of women as diners, or scrutinizing what specific ingredients and their preparations might tell us about the relative refinement of the characters who serve them. Hosts, she notes, are not always ‘à la hauteur du culte des initiés’ and thus ‘la demi-mondaine Nana fait servir une selle de chevreuil “à l’anglaise”, donc bouillie et non rôtie; et sa poularde, un animal peu distinctif, est somptueusement préparé “à la maréchale”’ (p. 32). She also has a keen eye for what’s missing from texts: in particular, given writers’ insistence on ‘la perspective du consommateur, du mangeur bourgeois,’ she observes how ‘le point de vue des producteurs, et notamment des cuisiniers, est entièrement écarté de la narration’ (p. 21). Certain readers might wish for a greater variety of texts to be examined along the way — perhaps some less canonical popular novels, plays, poems, or works by women writers like famously gourmande George Sand. Yet Becker delivers on what she promises, through incisive readings of a nicely coherent corpus. And, in the process, she transforms our vision of the gastronomic world represented within the nineteenth-century novel. We discover a feast for the mind, perhaps not the sumptuous banquet we might have fancied, yet all the more piquant for the critical perspectives we gain through Becker’s analysis. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French Studies Oxford University Press

Gastronomie et littérature en France au xixe siècle. Par Karin Becker; préface de Pascal Ory.

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0016-1128
eISSN
1468-2931
D.O.I.
10.1093/fs/knx273
Publisher site
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Abstract

Karin Becker’s study covers familiar ground, but does so in new ways, offering many fresh insights. Her corpus includes well-known, largely narrative works by Balzac, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Hugo, Zola, and Maupassant, analysed to explore ‘l’interaction entre gastronomie et littérature en France au xixe siècle’ (p. 9). Becker’s originality lies in the sceptical eye she casts upon gastronomic discourse and literature alike, and in her novel manner of conceptualizing the complex relationship between them. ‘Les écrits de gastronomes constituent un phénomène ambivalent, car ils oscillent entre la volonté de transmettre un savoir concret d’une part, et le plaisir de l’évocation vague et suggestive d’autre part’, she contends (p. 16), refusing either to take this savoir at face value, or to fall naively under the spell of gastronomes’ lyrical incantations. To be sure, ‘les romanciers reprennent, dans de nombreuses scènes de repas, les topoï utilisés par les gastronomes’ (p. 17), and to some extent they do so in praise of the table, thus joining gastronomes in ‘la création de ce mythe culinaire, célébré en France et exporté avec succès à l’étranger, où l’hégémonie de la cuisine française est peu souvent mise en question’ (p. 29). Yet realist and naturalist writers also use the period’s gastronomic commonplaces in subtler and more subversive ways: ‘la description de la culture gastronomique dans les romans représente, sous beaucoup d’aspects, une déconstruction ironique, sinon une critique de l’idéologie en cours au xixe siècle’ (pp. 27–28), and in this sense literary works offer ‘une contribution originale à la discussion contemporaine sur l’art de la bonne chère’ (p. 9). Becker’s rich reflection on gastronomy and literature is remarkable in its attention to detail, focusing on such neglected matters as table manners, the role of personal hygiene, and the problematic status of women as diners, or scrutinizing what specific ingredients and their preparations might tell us about the relative refinement of the characters who serve them. Hosts, she notes, are not always ‘à la hauteur du culte des initiés’ and thus ‘la demi-mondaine Nana fait servir une selle de chevreuil “à l’anglaise”, donc bouillie et non rôtie; et sa poularde, un animal peu distinctif, est somptueusement préparé “à la maréchale”’ (p. 32). She also has a keen eye for what’s missing from texts: in particular, given writers’ insistence on ‘la perspective du consommateur, du mangeur bourgeois,’ she observes how ‘le point de vue des producteurs, et notamment des cuisiniers, est entièrement écarté de la narration’ (p. 21). Certain readers might wish for a greater variety of texts to be examined along the way — perhaps some less canonical popular novels, plays, poems, or works by women writers like famously gourmande George Sand. Yet Becker delivers on what she promises, through incisive readings of a nicely coherent corpus. And, in the process, she transforms our vision of the gastronomic world represented within the nineteenth-century novel. We discover a feast for the mind, perhaps not the sumptuous banquet we might have fancied, yet all the more piquant for the critical perspectives we gain through Becker’s analysis. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

French StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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