Assignment: Find out what is already known about your subject and communicate that knowledge concisely in 1,500 words or less. The form of this portion of the project could be an annotated bibliography, a bibliographic or informative essay (i.e., a review of the literature), or some other format conducive to conveying information. Your purpose at this stage will be to inform, not to take a critical stance. (Suggested length: 1,500-2,000 words). Please submit your work as a PDF file.
Literature Review – Analyzing food rhetoric in The Sopranos
Barthes, Roland. Empire of Signs. Cape, 1983.
Barthes (1983) writes, “food is never anything but a collection of fragments, none of which appears privileged by an order of ingestion; to eat is not to respect a menu (an itinerary of dishes), but to select” (Empire of Signs 22). By correlating food to fragments and ‘selection’ we see the intention of choosing food and intention correlates to meaning.
Barthes states that food is an experience in touch. He provides an example of rice, stating that the substance is a fragment, both cohesive and detachable, what floats contrasts with what sinks, what’s dense vs. what is stuck together. He compares and contrasts food in France vs. in Japan and how the interpreter views the food, for example, in France a clear soup is a poor soup, but in Japan, fluid as clear as water with only a few shreds floating gives the idea of density, nutritive without grease and a comforting elixir demonstrating that “food becomes no longer a prey to which one does violence (meat, flesh over which one does battle), but a substance harmoniously transferred.
bell hooks, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” in Eating Culture, ed. Ron Scapp and Brian Seitz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 181.
In Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance, bell hooks speak about the ‘Other’ and how race and ethnicity become commodified as resources for pleasure. Hooks speaks about how on the college campus at Yale, she overheard young, white college men speaking of their conquests in terms of race, shopping for sexual partners based on their ethnicity the same way they shop for their courses. These young males, sexual encounters with those of another race was their way of confronting the “Other”. bell hooks wrote about a film Heart Condition, in which a white racist cop has a heart transplant, receiving a new heart from a black man. Transformed by his “black heart” he learns to transform his attitudes towards race. In this film, there was a dramatization of “eating the Other”. In ancient times, there were practices among primitive people to rip the heart out of someone else and eat it so they can embody that person’s spirit or characteristics.
DeVault, Marjorie L. Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work. University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Marjorie DeVault (1994) argues that “feeding work has become one of the primary ways that women ‘do’ gender”. Performing the roles of cooking and feeding thus often serves as a reaffirmation of gender roles, so that for many women this work “has become an apparently ‘natural’ part of the gendered self.”
Goldthwaite, Melissa.Food, Feminisms, Rhetorics.Southern Illinois University Press, 2017.
Food, Feminisms, Rhetoricscontains essays written by a variety of feminist scholars with varying viewpoints. Tammie M. Kennedy discusses the rhetoric of wine in Boxed Wine Feminisms: The Rhetoric of Women’s Wine Drinking in The Good Wifeto discuss how wine and drinking have become commonplace rhetoric in today’s society. Kennedy specifically uses The Good Wife to exemplify how “drinking practices are inflected by gender ideologies that shape representations in popular culture” (171). Over the past ten years, wine has been portrayed as a substance that enables women to deal with the stress of balancing motherhood with a career and the pressures of everyday life. Kennedy makes the tie of this wine-drinking culture to feminism, stating that it is a form of female assertion. However, she recognizes there are contrary views on wine-drinking and feminism. Gloria Steinem is quoted as saying, “Alcohol is not a women’s issue”, while other feminists have touted how alcohol is an antidote to managing modern motherhood.
Grynbaum , M. “Mangia Mafia! Food, Punishment, and Cultural Identity in The Sopranos.” The Essential Sopranos Reader, 2001, p. 183.
Food and dining play an important role in the series The Sopranos. Grynbaum (2001) pointed out that “every episode of the series is saturated in sumptuous Italian fare. The central locale of the Soprano household is its kitchen; Tony’s mob hangout is Satriale’s Pork Store and Meat Market, a butcher’s shop; and many of Tony’s family dinners, with blood relatives or blood brothers, occur in the upscale setting of Nuovo Vesuvio, the mob’s local restaurant of choice. Names of Italian dishes fly as often as bullets: pasta “fazool,” veal parm’, tiramisu, clam originator. The characters fetishize certain dishes and the camera follows suit, hovering on steaming heaps of fresh semolina spaghetti” (184). The Sopranos uses the ‘language of food’ throughout the series to portray Italian-Americans, culture, personalities, and religion.
Lindenfeld, Laura. “Women Who Eat Too Much: Femininity and Food in Fried Green Tomatoes.” From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food, (Editors: Avakian, Arlene Voski and Barbara Haber), University of Massachusetts Press, 2005, pp. 221–245.
Fried Green Tomatoesexplores the relationship between women and food. The film reaffirms hegemonic values and provides several examples of the relationship between gender, food, and power. Lindenfeld (2005) explores how the film is intrinsically linked to material that challenges cultural norms and adheres to what Raymond Williams refers to as “emergent culture”. By “emergent” Williams means “first that new meanings and values, new practices, new significances, and experiences, are continually being created,” (224). The film navigates both effective “dominant culture” and “oppositional culture”. Fried Green Tomatoes, attempts to challenge gender roles and heterosexism and the stereotypical ways women and food have been represented in mainstream media (224). In film women who are “larger” than what hegemonic culture says is acceptable are portrayed as either the butt of a joke, evil, comically unattractive or a domineering mother figure. Even when slender women eat, they are seldom portrayed as “enjoying” the food without being demonized or sexualized.
Lindenfeld states “The cinematography and editing have already established food as a central link between the contemporary and the historical in this opening scene” (227). Lindenfeld describes that for Idgie and Ruth, their relationship to food represents community, connectedness, and togetherness while Evelyn’s relationship with food signifies alienation, loneliness, and pain. The comparison between processed ‘junk’ food and homemade food contributes to this correlation. The film makes a point to build on the narrative that food is power.
The film creates a dichotomy between “good eating” and “bad eating”, linking thinness with “good eating” and fatness with lack of control. Fried Green Tomatoesdisplays woman as the classic feeder and server, making her subservient. Lindenfeld states, “The cinematography cautiously provides us with just enough distance from Evelyn that we can empathize with her without having to fear becoming her” (231).
McCabe, Janet & Kim Akass. “What Has Carmela Ever Done for Feminism? Carmela Soprano and the Post-Feminist Dilemma.” Reading the Sopranos, Lavery, D. (Editor). Palgrave McMillian, 2006, pp. 39–55.
McCabe and Akass (2006) explore Carmela Soprano’s role as a Mafia housewife and her contributions to the feminist cause. McCabe and Akass mention, “she supports widowed girlfriends with baked goods and sympathy but only until her husband tells her to terminate the friendship.” (39). While the authors concur that generally, Carmella is an embarrassment to the feminist struggle, there is something compelling about her. The authors argue that Carmella possesses a tremendous sense of agency, holding a unique ability to control her unruly husband. Carmella rejects feminism as “an elitist practice”, partially due to her Catholicism. Carmella is a paradox and is full of contradictions, stuck between domestic goddess, victim and Mafia matriarch. The long series narrative arc “imposes meticulous rules of self-examination” (Foucault, Will 19). The narrative mechanisms compel Carmella to bring forth representation.
Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Making Sense of Taste: Food & Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Korsmeyer (1999) explores ‘taste’ and how it can be used not only in the literal sense as it applies to food, but also in a metaphorical sense in regards to the ability to discern beauty and aesthetic qualities. “Philosophers have assumed that the sense of taste affords little of theoretical interest. Too closely identified with the body and our animal nature, it seems not to figure in the exploration of rationality or the development of knowledge. Therefore, taste is omitted from epistemology’s discussions of sense perception, in striking contrast to vision, which receives a great deal of attention for its delivery of information about the world” (1). Gustatory taste can divide and unite classes, race, and gender. From a moral standpoint, food can serve as both a bodily pleasure and a vice of gluttony. In Christianity, the enjoyment of food and eating is cautioned against as a ‘sin’ of gluttony. There are narratives of eating and ‘gustatory semantics’. Food can serve as a key component of the plot of a story, the dramatic focus of an event or provide symbolic attachment.
Rice, Jeff. “Menu Literacy.” Pre/Text , vol. 21, no. 1-4, 2001, pp. 119–131.
Rice (2001) posits that a menu is a form of culinary literacy. Whether written in chalk on a board, printed on paper or listed in an 11-page book, a menu invites one to engage with menu literacy. Just like the ingredients in a dish, our senses are fragments. The practice of writing before eating is customary for Japanese chefs. Rice points out that on Iron Chef, the contestants do poorly when they actually “cook” the food, rather than leave it raw. Rather then they develop a “meaningful” menu and write down the dishes names and ingredients, they demonstrate menu literacy. The concealing of the literary practices of food preparation also lead to mystery, for example when the menu of a restaurant in Chinatown is written on the wall in Chinese – this leads to fears that one who cannot ‘read’ the menu is missing out and the Chinese customers are getting “succulent dishes I don’t even know about” (112). Compare and contrast the ordering of food at a fast food restaurant, in which the ‘reading’ of the menu isn’t even necessary (cheeseburger, French Fries) vs. a fine dining establishment in which every item needs to be read slowly before ordering (strawberry sherry reduction, cashew cauliflower mash). This is yet another example of how food literacy contributes to the division of class.
Snider, Zachary. “The Erotic Pleasures of Danger Foods” Pre/Text , vol. 21, no. 1-4, 2001, pp. 133–165.
Snider (2001) states that pain can be involved with food and sex in regards to pleasure and pain. For example, eating hot peppers, spicy foods can be considered aphrodisiacs. The same dopamine-laden neurotransmitters in the brain are activated when risk behaviors related to both food and sex are sought. Anything the brain perceives as enjoyable will cause dopamine to flood our brain cells and build a memory ramp for pleasure. Food and sex are generally closely linked. They are physically in our brain, as well as emotionally. Good food is correlated with good sex. “Some social theorists—Foucault, namely—argue that this tantalizing, ongoing search for culinary and carnal pleasure has much more in common than most pleasure-seeking eaters and sexual practitioners are even aware of themselves. These prime reasons consist of: purely pleasurable greed and bliss; masochistic endeavors; psychological confusion and/or substitution of the oral and phallic stages; desire for or purposeful loss of self-control; social status motives such as succumbing to trends or obtaining bragging rights; transcendence of gender and oft-established power roles with ‘foodie’ or sexual experimentation; among other reasons explored in the forthcoming sections” (135-136). The relationship between risk, potential pain and pleasure are interconnected. Sex has been substituted for food. The separation between pleasure and pain, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of sex and eating.
Walden, Sarah. Tasteful Domesticity Women’s Rhetoric & the American Cookbook 1790-1940.University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018.
In Tasteful Domesticity, Sarah Walden states that there are specific, ideologic characteristics communicated to American wives and mothers. “Republican motherhood” is defined as “the relegation of women’s authority to the ‘private’ sphere” (29). A key component of this was a common understanding “that one’s passions and preferences must be regulated for the good of the Republic” (29). Walden states, “Early republican society rhetorically cast women as rational beings with the ability to self-regulate,” (34). This demonstrates the continued notion that reinforces the notion that women should be viewed as beautiful objects meant for the male gaze.
Hale, author of The Good Housekeeper(1839) defines ideal motherhood: “The mother appears more in relation to her children than in any other position: therefore, here mind and thoughts should chiefly be given to there are and training” (65). The role of the ‘moral mother’ was to ensure to nurture her children and her role was defined more through her character than her financial state. From a morality perspective, Walden furthers her argument that ideal motherhood is defined by these texts when she quotes child-rearing advice in Mother’s Magazine, “the tastes and habits of children are usually formed from what they see and hear from their mother, they copy her likes and dislikes, and when very young, will often do and suffer much to win her smile of approbation” (67). Walden explains that both Beecher and Mother Magazine relies upon Protestant context to describe women’s work. Walden states, “Rhetorically, taste now indicates rational food choices based on modern science, while the palate connotes uneducated food choices based on tradition and emotion. In either application, the message is clear: Americans need an intellectual understanding of food and the body to promote good taste and cultural betterment,” (124).
Yacowar, M. The Sopranos on the Couch.The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2002.
The Sopranos was an HBO series that attracted 3.7 million viewers on Sunday nights, 10 million in its four weekly airings and topped cable audience ratings. The first episode of Season Two scored the highest cable show rating in history. It received 16 Emmy nominations in its first season and won two. Each week The Sopranos churned out content that was nuanced and thought through as a film. Yacowar states, “it’s brilliantly written, performed, and filmed. Each episode has the polish of an excellent feature film – with a tighter yet more complex, resonant script than most,” (12). Without having to build the plot and faux cliffhangers around advertisements and commercials, The Sopranos was able to develop a revolutionary series that drew the audience into the immense, dimensioned characters’ lives. There is a complex dialectic between male vs. female, woman vs. idealized image of a woman, strength vs. vulnerability, which creates a central tension.