Kitchen (In) Literature: Rereading an English Domestic Space

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

In the introduction to her book The Female Servant and Sensation Fiction, Elizabeth Steere recounts how mid-nineteenth century critics originated the term “kitchen literature” to deride new fictions that appealed to the servant classes. The kitchen, however, has played no small part in English literature of all periods. Conventionally an iconic site of women’s labor, domestic kitchens have been used to cook meals, brew beverages, and even distill medicines and perfumes. The utility of the kitchen extends well beyond the tangible products prepared in them too: women have long used their relatively secluded space as one in which knowledge could be passed from generation to generation, communities could be formed, information exchanged, and even plots hatched.

This panel solicits papers exploring the way kitchens feature as essential elements in British literature and feminist narratives across periods. In particular, panelists are encouraged to explore representations of women using the space of the domestic kitchen to challenge conventional regulations of the gendered household or social roles. What are the implications of Lavinia assisting Titus Andronicus in preparing their Thyestean banquet, for example, or how does Grace Poole moving through passages connected to the kitchen flesh out Mr. Rochester’s estate (or fail to do so)?


Presentations in this panel may consider a range of topics:

- The recipe book as a source of communication between women

- Kitchen management and hierarchical power dynamics among servants

- Food preparation as a means of artistic expression

- Changing structural conceptions of or attitudes toward kitchen spaces

- Economic possibilities offered by kitchen work

- The performativity of labor in domestic space

- Reclamation of power through domestic labor


To submit an abstract, please visit the NeMLA submission page: