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Taste: A Literary History

About the Author

Denise Gigante

Denise Gigante teaches eighteenth and nineteenth-century British literature, with a focus on Romanticism. Her interests include the longer historical tradition of poetry and poetics, the English periodical essay, the Romantic novel, taste, gastronomy, aesthetic theory, antiquarianism, and the history of the book.  She is currently working on The Book Madness: A Story of Book Collectors in America and is the author of The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George, (just released by Harvard UP in paperback), Life: Organic Form and Romanticism (Yale UP, 2009), Taste: A Literary History (Yale UP,...

Yale University Press
2005

What does eating have to do with aesthetic taste? While most accounts of aesthetic history avoid the gustatory aspects of taste, this book rewrites standard history to uncover the constitutive and dramatic tension between appetite and aesthetics at the heart of British literary tradition. From Milton through the Romantics, the metaphor of taste serves to mediate aesthetic judgment and consumerism, gusto and snobbery, gastronomes and gluttons, vampires and vegetarians, as well as the philosophy and physiology of food. The author advances a theory of taste based on Milton's model of the human as consumer (and digester) of food, words, and other commodities--a consumer whose tasteful, subliminal self remains haunted by its own corporeality. Radically rereading Wordsworth's feeding mind, Lamb's gastronomical essays, Byron's cannibals and other deviant diners, and Kantian nausea, "Taste" resituates Romanticism as a period that naturally saw the rise of the restaurant and the pleasures of the table as a cultural field for the practice of aesthetics.