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Romancing Food: The Gastronomic Quest in Early Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature

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This paper examines four pre-war examples of gastronomic fiction: Murai Gensai's Kuido¯raku, Ko¯da Rohan's 'Chinsenkai', Tanizaki Jun'ichiro¯'s 'Bishoku kurabu', and Okamoto Kanoko's 'Shokuma'. Notably, these stories of gastronomic quest are not necessarily about what Brillat-Savarin called gourmandise, in contrast to gluttony and voracity. In many cases the quest goes totally against Brillat-Savarin's 'physiology' and heads towards destruction--of the body, the economy, and romantic and other relationships. The majority of pre-war Japanese gastronomic fiction seems to ignore or reject heterosexual love. The passion for food may be associated with eroticism; but the stronger that passion is, and the more ardent the gastronomic quest, the less the space that remains for romantic love affairs. In other words, 'romancing food' tends to go against, rather than favour, romantic love. I shall argue that the homosocial nature of pre-war Japanese gourmandise and literature has brought this about.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Queensland

Publication date: 01 December 2003

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