Political Appetites: Food in Medieval English Romance

Political Appetites: Food in Medieval English Romance is the first book-length examination of the cultural and theoretical resonances of food and cooking in medieval English literature, offering a new assessment of the vexed and critically underappreciated genre of romance. Aaron Hostetter moves beyond the critical assumptions of the food practices of medieval English culture as only reflecting Eucharistic preoccupations. Focusing on the romance literature of England, from tenth-century hagiographic verse to fifteenth-century courtly adventures, he also engages the politics of secular eating. Focus on the edible allows Political Appetites to apply fresh insights from cultural studies and critical theory to these narratives—to adumbrate their unique political perspectives. The analysis of food reveals these stories to be sophisticated responses to the material and political conditions of their day.

If humanity has attempted through its brief history to render the material world edible, then food and food practice not only influence our aspirations but also shift focus to the limits of human existence on this planet. In studying the foodways of the past as a fundamental economic activity, Political Appetites questions contemporary attitudes towards consumption as their proliferation and abuses create social inequities, menace ecosystems, and threaten to bring about the end of the Anthropocene Era.

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Aaron Hostetter