About this course

The Victorian era was a period of contradictions: there were famines, workhouses, and starving children, but it was also a time where the rich became fat on the rewards of imperial expansion. Women were corseted and restricted in their diets, while men explored and indulged in the abundance of new foreign foodstuffs.

This course will look at contemporary understandings of food, consumption and related questions, including the ‘discovery’ of anorexia nervosa and the development of more scientific approaches to diet. Literary texts studied in detail may include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, alongside extracts from Lear, Braddon, Collins, Gaskell, Surtees, Mayhew, Thackeray and Zola. We will look at other contemporary documents, such as newspaper articles, cartoons, advertisements, diet books, cookbooks, medical and scientific research, and consider topics such as food and nationhood, children’s literature and gluttony, starvation as protest, and the representation of fat as comical and criminal. We will conclude with a look at cannibalism, in the form of the disastrous Franklin Expedition, and literary responses to it.

The course engages with a range of disciplines, and with new avenues of scholarly research such as food history, body studies, fat studies, and medical humanities.

Offered

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