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  • La Cuisine de l’œuvre au XIXe siècle: regards d’artistes et d’écrivains éd. par d’Éléonore Reverzy et Bertrand Marquer
  • Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson
La Cuisine de l’œuvre au XIXe siècle: regards d’artistes et d’écrivains. Sous la direction d’Éléonore Reverzy et Bertrand Marquer. (Configurations littéraires.) Strasbourg: Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013. 248 pp., ill.

This collection of essays, each exploring a different terrain, serves up a wide range of nouvelles cuisines. The repast that results, if somewhat disparate, has enough intriguing dishes to satisfy the most exigent literary gastronome. Far from what might be called the cuisine et l’œuvre approach, the senses in which these articles construe cuisine range from the thematic of food in canonical and non-canonical texts to the more provocative alliance with artistic and particularly literary work, through manipulation, cunning, and the fabrication of a world of its own — the worlds that we read. Food turns up in the work of writers from Joseph Joubert (Émmanuelle Tabet) and the Comtesse de Ségur (Claudine Giacchetti) to the expected Balzac and Zola. This culinary omnipresence is rooted in both attraction (Colette Becker on Zola’s ‘gourmet’ criticism) and repulsion, both of which put into practice gustatory attitudes towards writing and creation. Absence can be as potent as presence (hunger in Huysmans, Maupassant, and Gide for Éléonore Reverzy, Joëlle Bonnin-Ponnier, and Stéphanie Bertrand), rejection as significant as celebration. In this century notable for voracious consumption, there are more than a few oddities (see Geneviève Sicotte on the ‘extreme gastronomy’ of a number of writers, and in a cross-cultural gesture, and Michel Delville on the refusal of appetite by the rather motley trio of Shelley, Melville, and Kafka). At their best, as with Bertrand Marquer’s ‘Portrait de l’artiste en dyspeptique’, these analyses reveal the very real contribution that thinking culinarily can bring to an appreciation of particular works and the social world beyond. Two articles in particular show how illuminating a culinarily re-centred analysis can be. Art historian Laurence Baridon places Jean Grandville’s Carte [End Page 254] vivante du restaurateur against a rich background of cultural productions from novels and vaudevilles to popular prints. His close reading makes clear how its constant shifting of social categories turns the increasingly eroticized and politicized restaurant into a symbol of and a catalyst for social transformation. Stéphane Gougelmann similarly reshapes our sense of the social hierarchy by showing how an old figure — the parasite familiar from classical literature onwards — acquired distinctive and distinctly modern significance in the nineteenth century. This thought-provoking analysis of the écornifleur seems likely to put the latter-day pique-assiette right up there with the flâneur as an emblematic figure of nineteenth-century urban society. Bon appétit et bonnes lectures!

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson
Columbia University


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pp. 254-255
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