Catherine Field

 

 

“Unbitten apple”: Food, Identity, and Female Desire in Twilight

 

 

 

return home

On the first day at her new high school in Forks, Washington, the nervous heroine of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling book, Twilight, thinks to herself, “I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me.” These lines foreshadow the famous problem at the center of the story: Bella Swann will, in fact, be in danger of being bitten as she falls in love with the vampire Edward Cullen. If as Tobias Döring and others have convincingly argued, “food offers powerful ways to make and communicate cultural meanings,” then what kinds of “cultural meanings” are at stake in a teenage gothic romance where the hero wrestles with and against his desire to devour his beloved? This paper will explore some possible answers to that question by tracing various representations of food, eating, and appetite in Twilight, while also attending to the conventions of the gothic genre and vampire literature in particular. The act of eating both affirms and breaks down the tenuous boundaries between human and monstrous, masculine and feminine, self and Other. What you eat and what you hunger for signifies who you are (even what you are). Eating (along with the related act of refusing to eat) also becomes linked to excessive female desire, but that desire is ultimately contained and de-fanged by the conservative constraints of the gothic genre.

 

 

Catherine Field graduated with her Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland (2006). Her dissertation, “‘Many Hands Hands’: Early Modern Englishwomen’s Recipes and the Writing of Food, Politics, and the Self,” traced how women explore and express matters of food, politics, and the self in culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic recipes from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. She has published two articles and many short essays on renaissance women’s recipes, and she has presented her research at major conferences in her field. In 2004 at the University of Oxford, she co-organized, “Recipes in Early Modern Europe: The Production of Food, Medicine, and Knowledge,” one of the first conferences held on the topic of early modern recipes.  Recently, she was an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Shakespeare, early modern women writers, and food and gender studies. She also has a secondary interest in Italian language, literature, and recipes, and she has spent many summers in Florence, Italy. This past spring (2010), she held a short-term research fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where she did further research on early modern women’s manuscript and printed recipe collections and where she also drafted a children’s book on William Shakespeare. She is now an independent scholar and writer, who lives in Bethesda, Maryland. She continues to write, research, eat, and cook (with and without recipes) as often as possible.