Keyser’s New Book “A Pivotal Text in Critical Eating Studies”
Sit back, relax, make sure to have some delicious snacks ready at hand, and enjoy Catherine Keyser’s new book Artificial Color: Modern Food and Racial Fictions (Oxford UP). The book explores the creation, transformation, and subversion of racial, ethnic, and gender identities through the fascination with cuisine, nutrition, food technologies, and global foodways in the interwar period. At the intersection of literary criticism and food studies, Artificial Color links the twentieth-century American canon to modern conceptions of growing, distributing, preparing, and consuming food. These ideas about food and the body contributed to the formation of racial identities in the literature and popular imagination of the 1920s and 30s.
As Keyser explains in the introduction, this work “explores an archive of mostly narrative literature…that views modern food not as a synecdoche for intractable encompassing systems but rather as an imaginative vehicle for racial transformation” (5).
Anita Mannur praises Keyser’s work: “It makes clear how an understanding of the alimentary intimacies in writings by Fitzgerald, Toomer, Schuyler, Stein, Hurston, West, and Hemingway oblige us to think about food’s racial embodiment…This isn’t simply a book about eating but about how a practice of reading that centers food can go a long way in talking about mutability of the body in its gendered and racial forms.” Other reviewers describe the book as “theoretically innovative and beautifully written” (Allison Carruth), with “superb command of relevant scholarship from food and modernist literary studies,” “wonderful archival research,” “and careful attention to subtle textual detail” in “truly original readings” (Doris Witt).