Eating And Feeling: Pleasure And The Modernist Body

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Eating and Feeling can be understood as an extended answer to the question of what it means to "dare" to eat a peach. Though Prufrock's question does not appear until the third chapter, I argue that the scene of eating-or hungering, feeding, or being fed-condenses the experiences of pleasure, risk, and the possibility of transgression into everyday life. Theorizing risky, transgressive pleasures is one of the central projects of queer studies, and I locate a queerness within the pleasure of taste that demonstrates the role of non-normative pleasure in quotidian experience. Writing about eating is about what tastes and feels good, and about how immersion in the sensory and affective textures of everyday life can set the subject aslant from social convention, even at the most conventional of social occasions, the shared meal. I say "aslant" because the kinds of pleasures that I write about here are not necessarily counter- or anti-normative; their queerness emerges not from a resistance to or refusal of normativity, but from a disregard for it. Queerness inheres in acknowledging the erotic charge that can accompany eating, but it also inheres in identifying pleasures that exist outside of the normative realm-not because they are structured against it, but because it simply fails to account for them. Drawing from a promiscuous archive that cuts across generic and geographical boundaries and building on recent scholarship that demonstrates the centrality of ordinariness to modernist aesthetics, I uncover a tradition of modernist writing about eating that is also, and primarily, writing about feeling. Positioning scenes of eating as a discrete and meaningful category within the broader modernist turn to the everyday, I demonstrate how these scenes chart the complex pleasures of life in the modern world. In addition to offering a new account of what is daring about the modernist turn to everyday life, my project emphasizes the centrality of pleasure to queer experience and thought, moving beyond the focus on negative affects that has characterized much recent work in queer theory.
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Salvato,Nicholas G.
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McCullough,Mary K.
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English Language and Literature
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Ph. D., English Language and Literature
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Doctor of Philosophy
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