Food, Taste, and the Body (May 1-3; Proposal due October 1st)

full name / name of organization: 
Midwest Victorian Studies Association
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Food, Taste, and the Body
Seminar Leader: Chris Otter, Department of History, The Ohio State University

Midwest Victorian Studies Association
University of Iowa
May 1-3, 2015
Deadline October 1st, 2014

During the nineteenth century, the British diet underwent significant transformation. Consumption of meat, sugar, white bread and dairy products rose significantly, while the production of British food became an increasingly global enterprise. The British diet itself also became much more geographically homogeneous (witness the slow decline of the oatmeal-rich Scottish diet, for example) while remaining socially-differentiated. These transformations involved recalibrations of taste, as food became sweeter, more processed and richer in animal protein. They also catalyzed a series of dietary woes, including dyspepsia, stomach ulcers, constipation and weight gain, while anorexia nervosa emerged in its modern form during the period.

This seminar invites scholars interested in any aspect of the history of food, taste, and the body in Victorian Britain. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: Victorian dietary trends, crazes and fads (e.g. vegetarianism or carbophobic diets); the relationship between empire and diet; Victorian food aversions; the history of the British "sweet tooth"; the deepening nineteenth-century aversion to brown bread; class, diet and taste; gender and food habits; regional diets (their persistence or obliteration); the presentation of food; food and disgust; the Victorian stomach and bowels; the potential blindness of the Victorians to the global nature of the food they consumed; and food in Victorian fiction, poetry, and visual art.

Participants in MVSA seminars will write 5-7 page papers that will be pre-circulated to the other participants prior to the conference. During the seminars, the seminar leader and participants will identify important points of intersection and divergence among the papers and identify future areas of inquiry and collaboration. The seminar format allows a larger number of scholars to participate in MVSA and to seek financial support from their respective institutions to attend the conference and discuss a shared area of scholarly interest. Seminars are limited to 12 participants.

Seminar proposals that are not accepted may be submitted to the general pool of MVSA conference submissions, due October 31

Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page vita (both as MWord documents) by October 1, 2014, to Chris Otter at