FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS ***Deadline: 20 January 2014*** Conference The Rhetorics of Food

KU Leuven, Belgium

26-27-28 May 2014

 As the intake of food is a basic “ingredient” of human life and cultures, it is no wonder that changes in this culture can reveal changes in basic patterns of a civilization (cf. Norbert Elias in the 1930s, reedited by UCD in 2012), Lévy-Strauss 1964). Over the past twenty years the rhetorics of food have developed rapidly and widely: TV chefs and journalists develop new lifestyles; regional and exotic foods mix in “transnational” combinations. Slow and fast food compete for consumers’ daily meal decisions.  In contexts of postcolonial cultures or diaspora (like the Irish one) where a transnational identity is being developed, rejection or acceptance of food is one of the main identity markers of cultural assimilation or alienation. (cf. Karl Marx’ Man is what he eats). People also speak (or refuse to) with their bodies in breastfeeding; a substantial number of children and adolescents develop eating disorders, and the age of onset of these disorders seems to be decreasing. Table manners change, but more significantly a new ethics of food brings about a new awareness of ecological aspects of produce. That the rhetorics of food is a “hot” topic is also illustrated by the latest issue of the renowned Cultural Studies Review published by UTS (Sydney)[1] on food cultures and amateur economies.

The topic of food clearly is situated at the intersection of various disciplines. We are therefore thrilled to be able to organize this multi- and interdisciplinary conference on the Rhetorics of Food, particularly as we have succeeded in bringing Tina Beattie (Roehampton College, UK) to the conference as the Key Note Lecturer.

This conference will look at how, both in the past and the present, people have been using the language of food to many purposes., and will bring together a number of worldwide recognized experts on the topic to the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies. We welcome papers in different areas: literature, cultural studies, theology, art (iconography/iconology), film, history (of ideas) and architecture, anthropology, political sciences, psychology, philosophy, economics.

Topics could include (but are not strictly limited to):

Food in Literature:

– verbal and other rhetorics in pivotal positions in a novel (Molly Keane’s Bad Behaviour, Joyce’s Dubliners and in Ulysses, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse …); ritual feasts (cf Christmas) often mark a conflict (or a reconciliation)

– kitchen sink drama; poems on food (Groarke, Strong, Boland, Bourke, Cannon…);

– Lands of Cockaigne and all kinds of fabled food

– links between eating and reading, interiorizing food or words (Apocalypse, The Name of the Rose); connections between the making of a poem and the making of food

– “Gastropoetics”: writers and cookery (from Dumas to Dahl et al); metaphors used to describe food (Jean-Paul Aron, Jean-François Revel, …)

– developments in etiquette from Middle Ages till now: in fiction (Arthurian romance) or in etiquette books

Psychology, philosophy of food:

– Food and identity; the ethics of food; diet and health; hygienic rules

– the rhetorics of quantity, and forms of potlatch  (cf. Montanari 1995);

– refusing food: bulimia, anorexia, allergies;

– food as a weapon / reward: poisoning / heavenly food

– positive and negative symbolism attaching to food: salt, honey, fish, bread, potato, turkey, haggis… vs taboos

– gendered kinds of food (Walker Bynum, 1998)

– fear of food (Ferrières, 2002); discourse on genetic manipulation; food scandals

– hierarchies of food (animals, plants, herbs, spices), of guests;

Rhetorics of chosen company and space:

– selection of invitees;  forms of hospitality: monastic, regal, bourgeois, nomad, professional; xenophilia / xenophobia: stories about unexpected visitors, magic of conviviality

– rituals in kitchen & dining room: cutting bread, carving meat; Burns Night, …

Food in the media:

food in film, in journalism & cookery books; forms of advertisement and assessment of food (cf. Brillat-Savarin 1807, Gault & Millau 2013)

Theology of food:

– Questions relating to food in the bible, in the Eucharist;  mediaeval “Schluckbilder”;

– the idea of food and sacrifice; health and holiness (cf. Levenstein 1996);

– images of the Maria lactans;

– Iconography of fasts and feasts (cf. Walker Bynum 1988, 2007)


The Esthetics of food:

– Real and metaphorical eating (cf. Saturn eating his children)

– new forms of discourse on still life, kitchen pieces (beyond Schneider, Bryson et al)

– representations of feasts and fasts: Brueghel, Botticelli, Veronese, Jordaens, Moreau,

– the language of cutlery, crockery, glass, textile at table

– food as art: consummation of the visual; (Jan Fabre 2000, Tuymans 2013)

– accompaniments: music, dance, other entertainment interacting with food

Economics of food:

– food scarcity and strategies of poverty reduction,

– agricultural development and food distribution

– climate change and effects on food production and consumption

Papers focusing on Ireland (or a comparison with Ireland) will be especially welcomed.

Confirmed plenary speaker: Tina Beattie (Roehampton College, UK)

Title: “The female breast in theology and art”

The conference is hosted by the KU Leuven, the Faculties of the Arts, Theology, Psychology and Pedagogy in cooperation with the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies (LCIS). It will take place in the newly refurbished Irish college in Leuven (the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe).

Fees: 150 EUR (tenured), 80 EUR (students) which covers conference costs, social events, lunches and coffees.

 Papers should not exceed 2500-3000 words (20 minutes’ delivery). Proposals for papers (250-300 words) and a short biography should be sent by e-mail to Hedwig Schwall ,

You will be notified by 31st January.

More information about the conference will be posted on