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Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers

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Van Haecke, Michele D.
University of Montana
literature; indigenous; food communication; eating; body; affect; Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority
thesis / dissertation description
Philosophers, social scientists, poets, critics––when we want to express some understanding about our relationship to the world, we turn to the belly. Literary food, eating, and related biological processes such as digestion and defecation are often dismissed as trivial details that at most sell realism or complicate character. Through a complex, dynamic interaction between social, psychological, and biological influences, food on the page manipulates our unconscious responses to reinforce, complicate, or resist a text’s explicit themes, and construct subtextual alternatives. This thesis develops a new method for reading what I call “belly writing.” Exploiting anxieties and automatic responses related to eating, authors use belly writing to authenticate and vivify their textual worlds, cultural values, and histories that otherwise elude us. Learning to “read” food illuminates alimentary authorial choices and sharpens awareness of how these relate to our own responses, altering our reading and enriching the thematic landscape. Though belly writing is useful across literary genres, and perhaps beyond academe, I narrow my scope to focus on contemporary works by authors indigenous to the American West: Darcy McNickle’s Wind From An Enemy Sky, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, and Louise Erdrich’s The Master Butchers Singing Club. I occasionally depart from this list to make comparisons and clarifications useful to defining the method.