The term "domesticity" may bring to mind cooking, cleaning, and tranquil evenings at home. During the last few decades, however, American domesticity has become ever more politicized as third-wave feminists, conservative critics, and others debate the very meaning of home and family. Despite this new wave of debate, the home, particularly the kitchen, is comfortable territory for the consolidation of issues of gender, space, marketplace, community, and technology in twentieth century literature.
This work looks closely at a wide variety of southern domestic literature, focusing particularly on the role of the family kitchen as a driving force in the narratives of Ellen Glasgow, Eudora Welty, Lee Smith, and Toni Morrison. Topics include the overtones of isolation and the almost claustrophobic third-person narration of Glasgow's Virginia and Life and Gabriella; the communal kitchen and its role in defining the sexual discourse of Welty's Delta Wedding; the unification of national railway lines and its consequences for the traditional Appalachian kitchen in Smith's Oral History and Fair and Tender Ladies; and the lasting effects of slavery on the "haunted domesticity" of the African-American kitchen in Morrison's Jazz, Paradise, and Love.
Laura Sloan Patterson — Laura Sloan Patterson is an associate professor of English at Seton Hill University, where she teaches American and southern literature and directs the undergraduate writing program. She lives in western Pennsylvania.
Patterson, Laura Sloan. Stirring the pot: the kitchen and domesticity in the fiction of southern women. McFarland, 2008. 230p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780786435234 pbk. Reviewed in 2009mar CHOICE.
Analyzing the work of a wide range of female writers of the South--Ellen Glasgow, Toni Morrison, Lee Smith, Eudora Welty--Patterson (Seton Hall Univ.) locates the place of the kitchen in 20th-century literature as an important and telling element in the works of these women. The author submits selected works by each to close scrutiny in order to define the role of the kitchen while simultaneously re-visioning the word "domesticity." In so doing, Patterson raises such interesting issues as isolation, marketplace, community identification, and gender and space, to name only a few. The scope and nature of this work make it most suitable for those with a special interest in the intersection of feminist criticism and southern literature.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students through faculty. -- C. R. Bloss, Georgia Gwinnett College