Food, spaces of consumption and the exhibition of taste in Catherine Gore's silver-fork fiction, 1830-1834

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Abstract

Critics regularly observe that lavish dinner parties constitute one of the formulaic features of silver-fork fiction, but tend to overlook the subtle ideological labour undertaken by such representations. Drawing on sociological theories of taste and distinction, this essay argues that, in the novels of Catherine Gore, items of food and spaces of consumption operate as codified information systems which, by classifying diners, help to police the fragile boundary between exclusive and non-exclusive society. Yet, while ridiculing vulgar social climbers who lack the cultural capital to perform discerningly, Gore also critiques the idea of ‘natural’ aristocratic distinction by satirizing the arbitrary codes of etiquette and gendered behaviours that signify ‘good taste’ at table. This demystification of the conventions of fashionable society is accompanied by a tacit endorsement of middle-class domestic values. The ideology of taste that emerges in Gore’s fiction is therefore complex and contradictory, working both to reinforce and subvert the cultural authority of the ruling elite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-53
JournalThe Yearbook of English Studies
Volume48
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

Keywords

  • silver-fork fiction
  • taste
  • distinction
  • Catherine Gore
  • food
  • spaces of consumption

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