Breaking the mould, cooking semiotics and heterogeneity

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Batstone, Kathleen Loren
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At the heart of the dissertation are two beliefs: first, that food preparation operates symbolically in literature and film, and second, that the symbolic function of food preparation is "multifunctional" in that it varies depending on social context. Supplementing these beliefs with elements of semiotic, post-structural, feminist, interarts, and linguistic theory, my concern is with the capacity of cooking as a symbol to resist binary classifications as illustrated in a variety of twentieth-century literary texts and films. An examination of the relationship between cooking and such traditional binaries as life and death, and masculine and feminine reveals the ability of food preparation to disrupt such oppositions following a Derridean model in which the two poles of the binary are seen to be interdependent or part of a continuum rather than antagonistic. The application of cooking's deconstructive capacity to the pairs metaphor/metonymy, and art/craft also raises questions regarding the status of these linguistic and institutional oppositions. The increasing attention paid to cooking in popular culture, represented by such markers as the popularity of cooking shows on television and the elevation of certain chefs to the status of celebrities, as well as the many connections between food preparation and almost all areas of social and cultural life indicate the importance of a greater understanding of cooking's symbolic function.