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A taste of conflict: Food, history and popular culture in Katherine Mansfield's fiction

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This article considers the function of food and consumption in Katherine Mansfield's fiction. Using food as the ideal medium to dissect issues of gender, national identity and class, Mansfield unveils how eating functions as an agent of modernity. Against the backdrop of World War One – and the subsequent evolution into the 1920s – Mansfield reveals how history and popular culture merge in the idiom of food. Her fiction proves eating to be an activity of 'conflict', whether it be conceptually saturated with political militancy or marked by social divergence and disarming solitude. While Mansfield's New Zealand stories offer an optimistic perspective on gastronomy and life sanguinity, her European fiction offers a bleaker view of eating as an activity that emphasizes the pain of post-war separation, solitude and social neglect. By paying close attention to the gastro-political debates in the fiction, this analysis aims to show how food habits act as a crucial concept within Mansfield's negotiations of a particularly alienating moment in history.
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Keywords: Katherine Mansfield; World War One; fiction; food; gender; national identity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Auckland University of Technology

Publication date: June 7, 2012

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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