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Gastro-modernismFood, Literature, Culture$
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Derek Gladwin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954682

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781942954682.001.0001

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A Woolf at the Table

A Woolf at the Table

Virginia Woolf and the Domestic Dinner Party

Chapter:
(p.53) Chapter Three A Woolf at the Table
Source:
Gastro-modernism
Author(s):

Lauren Rich

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781942954682.003.0003

This chapter analyzes the middleclass domestic dinner party as a key site in Virginia Woolf’s articulation of British modernity. Long viewed by critics as occasions for forming, renewing, and nurturing relationships, I argue that shared meals in Woolf’s novels often function as sites of surprising alienation, fragmentation, and disunity, with characters more apt to turn against than to commune with each other. Moreover, the collapse of the domestic dinner party as a basis for human relationships in Woolf’s fiction may be traced to modernity’s influence on food and dining through such phenomena as changing roles for women, class tensions, the mechanization of the middleclass kitchen, developments in food processing and marketing, rationing, and changes in etiquette. Thus, Woolf’s fiction destabilizes facile equations of commensality with communion and challenges the common misperception that the symbolic power of food is ahistorical.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, dinner party, alienation, gender, middle-class, hostess, domestic

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