Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Eating, Starving and the Body: The Presentation of Self

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Eating, Starving and the Body: The Presentation of Self

Article excerpt


This study examines the subtle and complex importance of food and eating in contemporary female fiction. It reveals how the chief concern with food, its consumption and the body are central to the work of writer like Margaret Atwood. Two novels in particular, Cat's Eye (1988) and Alias Grace (1996) will be considered as they feature female protagonists who experience intense conflicts concerning their bodies, conflicts that result in or are a response to violence. This violence takes the form of eating disorders. They highlight this form of bodily violence which supports their on-going critique of dualistic thinking. In their fictions, Atwood shows the artificial bifurcation of human existence into body and self which tends to result in self-alienation or the splitting of the subject. This writer draws on feminist and sociological theory to engage with a diverse range of issues, including eating disorders as a form of self-violence or mutilation, to demonstrate the direct relationship of food and eating or not-eating with gender and cultural politics to manifest the role of using food in assumed association of the womanly body which leads to splitting of the subject.

Keywords: food, starving, self, body, woman

1. Introduction

It is quite long time that the body depicts human's affections, sensations and speculations. It considers as a manifestation of a person's cultural sphere. In fact, the body was considered like a sign to fight against cultural, moral, and political burden. The people display their opinions and thought by their acts and appearance. It is through the time that the body changes its length, appearance, and context; however, it is still resigned for the same aim of declaration. Considering the fact that the act of the human body is dependent on food, it can be argued that food has worked the chief function in the history of the body (Rajewicz, 4). Eating is an important activity. It is in fact the basic source of happiness and depression and it is more or less the first action we perform a basic foundation of gladness and sadness, the grounding of our earliest education and enculturation. Food is our central activity, and it is essential for survival and is very closely connected with social function. What people eat, and what they feel about food and why, are important to an understanding of human society. However, the main significance of eating is not biological but symbolic. Based on psychoanalytic theory, influential feeding experiences are described in the psyche. In fact, food and eating are vital to self-identity and are helpful in the definition of family, class and ethnicity. These are not unclear associations, for eating practices are highly specific:

Encoded in appetite, taste, ritual and ingestive etiquettes are unwritten rules and meanings, through which people communicate and are categorised within particular cultural contexts. The essential and necessary qualities of eating invest its surrounding activities with value, whether psychological, moral or affective (Sceats, 1).

Sceats continues to add that the role and numerous levels of importance of food and eating lead to a link with epistemological and anthological issues. The occurrence of eating disorders in Western culture displays at least unsafe thinking about embodiment, the nature of being and the borders between the self and the world. Physical boundaries are clearly vital to food and eating activities as "substances pass into, and out of, the body. Uneaten food is 'other', part of the world outside, but its status changes as it is taken into the mouth, is chewed swallowed, digested" (1). Another point is that food is considered as a part of identity. Food creates a person or empowers what a person is. There is a close connection between gender, nationality, ethnic origin or identification, religion and class. In fact, a number of scholars have found that food and eating are necessary in our ways of constructing our subjectivity and identity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.