2017 Piskor Lecture ~ Paul Graham, Associate Professor of English
The Frank P. Piskor
presented by Paul Graham
Associate Professor of English
“Imaginary Food and Invisible Others: Reading Recent Culinary Memoirs ”
Tuesday, April 11th
Sykes Common Room
In the last fifteen years, literary journalists such as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Jonathan Safran-Foer (Eating Animals), and Barry Estabrook (Tomatoland and Pig Tales) have won critical acclaim for their attention to the toll industrial food production takes on the environment, animals, and human beings. Curiously, with a few exceptions, writers of synchronous food memoir—a broader genre of wide popularity in which authors explore food in personal contexts —have been slow to acknowledge those conflicts. Assuming that these memoirists are reading the journalism and social criticism, why is this? What role is food actually playing in so many of these memoirs? I address how on the one hand, food memoirists appear eager participants in the genre’s traditions of pleasure, plenitude, and ease—traditions that are dissonant with the realities reported by food journalists. Furthermore, a close-reading of recent food memoirs also suggests that the real goal is not to capture a meal, but to re-inhabit lost places and times or to participate in broader gender- and class-based narratives. The act of remembering, central to memoir, perpetuates an act of collective forgetting, though a few compelling recent works manage to break this pattern.
Established in 1980, the Frank P. Piskor Faculty Lectureship was designed to support and encourage scholarship and creative work and to give faculty the opportunity to share their work with the academic community.