An unpublished piece of prose in the style of Romanian writer Urmuz has rekindled my interest in absurdist writings and/or absurd cases which, in Romanian culture, are associated with the likes of Urmuz, Caragiale or Ionesco. I will ponder here, with the aid of the aforementioned authors and also by comparing their work with Lewis Carroll’s, the absurdist spirit of certain Romanian literary and dramatic pieces, or only of certain scenes therein, to propose a typology of the absurd as distinct from satire (the latter often a companion piece to the former). Mine is an investigation that crisscrosses texts, cultures and ages more than it offers an in-depth analysis by recourse to concepts and theories; asks questions more than it offers answers; plays more than it does sober research; and laughs – lest it should weep.
This essay examines the perspectives on food, cooking and commensality offered by three highly dissimilar works: Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse (1927), Peter Greenaway’s film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) and, as a cultural foil for the two British works, a Chinese film, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000). Food or eating is not the central topic of any of them, save Greenaway’s film. Rather, their common denominator is the interplay of visuality and its implicit or explicit social reference, for all three works engage, however differently, with the class differential entailed in scenes featuring food or eating. I use Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological concept of orientation – amended in intersectional terms – to examine the cook figures and instances of representing food or eating in the three works. My working hypothesis is that such representations may reveal both the permanent negotiation of cultural values attached to culinary practices, including to the agents involved, and what they conceal socially.
This paper investigates the multi-layered violence of religious representation in the late medieval York biblical plays, with a focus on the Supper at Emmaus. I read Emmaus (Y40), a play which commemorates the Crucifixion and openly encourages strong anti-Judaism, alongside scenes in an early predecessor pageant, The Crucifixion (Y35), within their contemporary devotional and mnemonic practices, i.e. the confessional Book of Margery Kempe and Thomas Bradwardine’s tract on ars memorativa. Emmaus in particular demonstrates how a fundamentally violent ars memorativa, the legacy of ancient rhetoric to the Middle Ages, also underpins the instruction of the laity in the basics of Christian faith, here with the aid of highly musical prosody and repetition, and thereby hones a biased, intolerant and violence-inured Christian collective memory. To study the York play’s position relative to late medieval mnemonic practices, I frame my analysis within memory studies, enriched with the more specific insights offered by social-psychological, neurobiological and cognitivist studies of memory.
This article examines art as it is depicted ekphrastically or merely suggested in two scenes from Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, to critique its androcentric assumptions by appeal to art criticism, feminist theories of the gaze, and critique of the en-gendering of discursive practices in the West. The first scene concerns Mrs Ramsay’s artinformed appreciation of her daughter’s dish of fruit for the dinner party. I interpret the fruit composition as akin to Dutch still life paintings; nevertheless, the scene’s aestheticisation of everyday life also betrays visual affinities with the female nude genre. Mrs Ramsay’s critical appraisal of ways of looking at the fruit - her own as an art connoisseur’s, and Augustus Carmichael’s as a voracious plunderer’s - receives a philosophical slant in the other scene I examine, Lily Briscoe’s nonfigurative painting of Mrs Ramsay. The portrait remediates artistically the reductive thrust of traditional philosophy as espoused by Mr Ramsay and, like the nature of reality in philosophical discourse, yields to a “scientific” explication to the uninformed viewer. Notwithstanding its feminist reversal of philosophy’s classic hierarchy (male knower over against female object), coterminous with Lily’s early playful grip on philosophy, the scene ultimately fails to offer a viable non-androcentric outlook on life.
This article studies comparatively references to tables in Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse and two films, Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love. Greenaway announces from the title a concern with a cook, which the film duly elaborates by setting its action mostly in a restaurant and its kitchen; tables as the central part of the set visualise power configurations. In Wong’s film about failed love, the kitchen and/or tables as part of the décor reinforce mainstream notions of middle-class domesticity. Woolf challenges middle-class views of gender in two episodes from Part I – Mrs Ramsay’s dinner party and the dialogue between Lily Briscoe and Andrew Ramsay about the object of his father’s philosophy books – by defamiliarising respectively the dining-and kitchen tables. The latter scene, which repurposes the idea of the kitchen table as an analogon for philosophy’s construal of the nature of reality, opens up an epistemic avenue: thinking with the kitchen table. My general frame for analysis is Edmund Husserl’s concept of orientation, sustained by Bertrand Russell’s propositions about unobserved objects and unoccupied perspectives. However, I twist these conceptual tools intersectionally to unravel the social grounds of philosophical and artistic positions that obfuscate gendered contributions to knowledge, sustenance and general well-being.
This essay studies scenes that focus on food and eating in the films Chocolat (2000) and I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále, 2006). To assess whether or not they constitute food porn we compare and contrast such scenes with the description of an unwholesome recipe for cannibalistic eating in Titus Andronicus, which anticipates our contemporary food obsession. At its most basic (and controversial), food porn names the alluring visualisation of certain foodstuffs, which renders food the object of erotically tinged desire. Serving different purposes in the two films, such eroticisation of food can be more than self-referential insofar as it indicates human interactions framed as power relations. Showing chocolate making and eating, in Chocolat, actually visualises a woman’s exertion of power over the women and their husbands in a bigoted French village in 1959, intended to awaken the people’s benumbed desire. Not food proper is the object of desire in the Czech film, but the young woman served up as ocular side dish to the moguls dining in a stylish Prague restaurant before the outburst of WWII. By contrast, food eroticisation is completely absent in Shakespeare; at stake is a verbal (and implicitly visual) concern with the transformation of flesh and body parts into ingredients for seemingly festive consumption. Visualising food, in Titus, implicitly visualises the reclaim and exertion of power in the fictional Roman polity. In all these cases, the concern with food vectorises power relations and may fluidise gendered hierarchies, an issue which food porn scholarship rarely addresses.