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"It was delightful to be so hungry": Food, Class, and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature Open Access


Other title
Children's Literature
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Christensen, Samantha M
Supervisor and department
Harde, Roxanne (Augustana Faculty)
Examining committee member and department
Hurley, Nat (English and Film Studies)
Sinnema, Peter (English and Film Studies)
Johnston, Ingrid (Secondary Education)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
This thesis explores the social, political, and spatial extensions of food and eating in nineteenth-century young women’s coming-of-age texts in America. It focuses on novels and short-stories from women authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Susan Coolidge, Eleanor H. Porter, and Sarah Jewett in order to unpack both young women’s and young men’s complex relationships to food while examining the culture that shapes restrained, social eaters. This research is grounded in textual representations of the complex framework of nineteenth-century girls and young women in the kitchen, along with boys and young men in domestic eating spaces, while engaging with the social and political significance of the spaces in which these characters eat and cook. Chapter One discusses the ways in which boys in Alcott’s Under the Lilacs and Little Women series, along with Dorry in Coolidge’s What Katy Did, struggle to adopt appropriate relationships to food and their appetites—relationships that guide them into successful futures as ideally masculine men. Throughout these texts—novels targeted toward girls and young women in the nineteenth century—young male characters struggle to negotiate their identities as enthusiastic eaters of female-prepared food with social pressures to develop into hardworking, masculine men in control of their appetites. The second half of this thesis hinges on arguments of the history of space, and the ways in which food is deeply intertwined with architectural shifts in domestic spaces. Chapter Two primarily looks at Eleanor H. Porter’s 1913 novel, Pollyanna, and discusses Pollyanna’s ability to develop cross-class relationships with lower-class female characters in the text while using food and eating spaces as a means of transcending class boundaries. The third and final chapter continues exploring themes of space, as it analyzes the ways in which the kitchen becomes an increasingly feminized space in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It looks at the ways in which by creating spaces of collective cooking and food sharing, these authors transcend the boundaries of the feminized cooking space and reject social rituals that isolate women in the kitchen.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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