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Publisher Description

Depictions of food and food preparation pervade American sentimental and domestic novels of the nineteenth century. Food and consumption imagery is ubiquitous in Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Harriet Jacobs's autobiographical Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In The Wide, Wide World, which proves a rich resource for documentation of early nineteenth-century New England cooking, Warner concludes a page-long description of Ellen's preparation of her mother's tea by noting, "[a]ll this Ellen did with the zeal that love gives, and though the same thing was to be gone over every night of the year, she was never wearied" (13). And apparently, Warner never wearied from writing similar meticulous descriptions. Uncle Tom's Cabin features several similar scenes in which such communal moments associated with the art and act of food preparation and feeding (serving that food to others) suggest a sacred ritual. Aunt Chloe's cooking skills are legendary, and Rachel Halliday's kitchen simmers with good food, goodwill and love. In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, the kindly Aunt Marthy feeds many of the townspeople and exhibits a holy hospitality to her family, friends and enemies alike. (1) Among women, particularly, such moments of intimacy and nurturing connote a holy communion that consecrates their shared experience of service and sacrifice, as lane Tompkins has noted: In these Christian sentimental narratives, such food rituals can be interpreted specifically as enactments of the Christian sacrament of communion in the offering up of one's body in service for her loved ones. (2) Goodness is represented by those who, in Christlike fashion, feed and nurture.

Professional & Technical
June 22
Conference on Christianity and Literature
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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