NeMLA 2016: "Food and Feast in Post-Medieval Outlaw Literature"

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Alexander L. Kaufman
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This session will present new work from scholars in an emerging line of inquiry: post-medieval outlaw narratives and the textual and cultural relevance of feasting and eating. This session purposefully reaches beyond the Middle Ages to demonstrate that outlawry is a global phenomenon, one that is not only present in a variety of literatures, languages, and cultures, but also one that is inherently intertwined with food and feast. While outlawry has its formal origins in the Middle Ages, the outlaw is a figure and trope present in many post-medieval texts: several Renaissance dramas, and especially American, Native American, African American, and Australian outlaw narratives. Food, its preparation, and its consumption are presented in outlaw narratives as central points of human interaction, community, and fellowship, providing readers with opportunities to examine and analyze agricultural practices as well as trade, economics, and the social standing of its producers and consumers. Feast scenes perform a wide variety of functions, serving as a cultural repository of manners and behaviors, a catalyst for the adventure, or a moment of regrouping and redirecting the narrative, for instance. This session will consider the presence and function of food and feast in outlaw narratives, with an eye to considering whether and how instances of food preparation and eating in these tales can be said to display, to develop, or to subvert the conventional ideas of community and fellowship most commonly associated with foods and feasts in literature. This session is unique in a number of ways. It builds upon a growing body of scholarship on outlaw studies and food studies, which in recent years has seen a number of important analyses from such scholars as Allison Carruth, Stephen Knight, Susan Leonardi, Anita Mannur, Thomas Ohlgren, and Helen Phillips. Indeed, some twenty-five years after Leonardi's landmark 1989 PMLA article, "Recipes for Reading: Summer Pasta, Lobster à la Riseholme, and Key Lime Pie," scholars are less ambivalent about the status of food studies. Indeed, the twenty-third International Medieval Conference in Leeds announced that the theme for its 2016 meeting is "Food, Feast, and Famine." It seems that now is the opportune time for an examination of the transgressive world of outlaws within the context of one of life's basic necessities, food.

NeMLA will meet in Hartford, Conn., March 17-20, 2016.

Please submit abstracts by Sept. 30, 2015.

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