Doctor of Philosophy, Rice University, January (2003)
Food and eating have attracted the attention of scholars in different disciplines, but no one has yet attempted a systematic study of their social and cultural significance in early modern England. This dissertation undertakes such a study of a period in which the traditional social hierarchy was loosening and economic resources were changing hands in an unprecedented pace. Analyzing contemporary drama along with medical treatises, self-help manuals, and popular literatures, I demonstrate the way in which cultural beliefs and practices accompanying preparation and consumption of food contribute to the process of social formation and, more specifically, to the making of a class and gendered body. I argue that, though women’s involvement in food service and provision is indispensable in the maintenance of the social order, they are usually identified with the unruly forces from below, threatening to become not just the medium but the agent of pollution and destruction.