This page provides updates on my new research project Feeding the Senses: Narrating Food across Media

Feeding the Senses extends cognitive ecocritical analysis to a range of media beyond literature and film, and with its focus on food it turns to a subject that is extremely relevant to a range of cultural discourses in the contemporary world, ranging from health, hedonism and beauty to issues of justice, animal rights and sustainability. At the same time our relationship to food is extremely personal. Food concerns everyone everywhere, and we all tend to have emotionally fraught relationships to the things we put inside our bodies on a daily basis. From existential fear to the greatest delight, food cues strong emotions not only in the act of eating (or not eating), but also during our consumption of images and narratives in a wide range of media, including film and television formats of all kinds, photography and visual art, literature, food blogs, music, and even computer games.

The project explores the very different and yet related ways in which such depictions and narrativization of food engage audiences on the sensual and emotional level. It is also interested in the intriguing moments when food – the way it looks, smells, tastes and gives sustenance to a body – is translated from one medium into another in a complex act of sensory transposition. Because food has such strong sensual properties it is a particular interesting subject for a consideration of processes of liberated embodied simulation (Gallese and Wojciehowski, 2011) in the human brain during reading, listening and watching. The aim of the project is to demonstrate that a cognitive ecocritical approach can give us fascinating insights not only into the moments of pain and shame we might experience during the watching of a documentary focusing on animal slaughter or food-related environmental destruction, and the pleasure we feel while watching cooking shows. It also helps us understand why an imaginary culinary experience can change drastically as it gets transposed from one medium to another.

Associated talks and presentations:

September 27, 2018
“Back to the Roots: Race, Space, and Community in Urban Farming Documentaries”
Paper at the 8th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Literature, Culture, and Environment (EASLCE) at the University of Würzburg

Würzburg Germany

June 14-30, 2018
“How We Feel about (Not) Eating Animals: Ecomedia, Emotion, and Vegan Studies”
Plenary lecture at “A Clockwork Green: Ecomedia in the Anthropocene — A Nearly Carbon Neutral Virtual Symposium

Sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) and the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

April 4, 2018
Street Food: Environment, Place, and Protest in Urban Farming Documentaries”
Paper at the 32nd Annual Conference of the European Association for American Studies (EAAS) and the British Association for American Studies (BAAS)

London, UK

November 10, 2017
“Food, Art, and the Senses”
Invited talk at the preparatory workshop for the special exhibition “Kosmos Kaffee” at the Deutsche Museum (to open in spring 2019)

Munich, Germany

Associated publications:

How We Feel about (Not) Eating Animals: Vegan Studies and Cognitive Ecocriticism

The essay aims to draw connections between two emerging research fields within the environ­mental humanities: vegan studies and cognitive ecocriticism. It suggests that a cognitive ecocritical approach drawing on the insights of affective neuroscience and cognitive ethology can complement the cultural studies side of vegan studies by turning our attention to the ways in which texts and films invite us to feel about animals, food, and the relationship between the two. It is particularly interested in the transformative potential of a range of negative and positive emotions that are cued by texts that critically investigate our relationship with food.

Published in Wright, Laura (ed.) 2019. Through a Vegan Studies Lens: Textual Ethics and Lived Activism. Reno: University of Nevada Press