Margarine, Mystery and Modernity: Margarine and Class in Literary Texts (1880-1945)

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Margarine, Mystery and Modernity : Margarine and Class in Literary Texts (1880-1945). / Turner, Ellen.

In: Food, Culture and Society, Vol. 21, No. 4, 08.08.2018, p. 521-538.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Margarine, Mystery and Modernity

T2 - Food, Culture and Society

AU - Turner, Ellen

PY - 2018/8/8

Y1 - 2018/8/8

N2 - Margarine represents the pinnacle of culinary modernity, but it also has deep-seated working-class undertones connected to its origin as a butter substitute to feed the masses. This paper employs close readings as a tool to explore references to margarine in literary texts, and to situate them within a broader cultural context. In the first section of the analysis margarine references are surveyed in order to demonstrate how the product contains a multitude of sometimes conflicting meanings. In the second part of the analysis two works of detective fiction are explored—Arthur Morrison’s “The Stolen Blenkinsop” (1908) and Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise (1933)—which use margarine as a central plot device. It is argued that margarine is the foodstuff of modernity since it contains within it the conflicting impulses which characterize the modernist mentality. Margarine stands for the novel and the innovative. It stands for technology and progress. However, margarine also embodies certain modernist anxieties about the prevalence of mass culture and fear surrounding the dissolution of boundaries between the high and the low, the real and the fake. The harder it is to tell the difference between butter and its cheaper alternative, the greater the threat.

AB - Margarine represents the pinnacle of culinary modernity, but it also has deep-seated working-class undertones connected to its origin as a butter substitute to feed the masses. This paper employs close readings as a tool to explore references to margarine in literary texts, and to situate them within a broader cultural context. In the first section of the analysis margarine references are surveyed in order to demonstrate how the product contains a multitude of sometimes conflicting meanings. In the second part of the analysis two works of detective fiction are explored—Arthur Morrison’s “The Stolen Blenkinsop” (1908) and Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise (1933)—which use margarine as a central plot device. It is argued that margarine is the foodstuff of modernity since it contains within it the conflicting impulses which characterize the modernist mentality. Margarine stands for the novel and the innovative. It stands for technology and progress. However, margarine also embodies certain modernist anxieties about the prevalence of mass culture and fear surrounding the dissolution of boundaries between the high and the low, the real and the fake. The harder it is to tell the difference between butter and its cheaper alternative, the greater the threat.

KW - Margarine

KW - modernism and modernity

KW - food and literary studies

KW - class

U2 - 10.1080/15528014.2018.1481674

DO - 10.1080/15528014.2018.1481674

M3 - Article

VL - 21

SP - 521

EP - 538

JO - Food, Culture and Society

JF - Food, Culture and Society

SN - 1552-8014

IS - 4

ER -