In most cultures, women are in charge of meals and the rituals and customs surrounding meals. This work explores the importance of dinners and other meals in fiction by Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield, Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf and other women writing at the turn of the 20th century. Diane McGee proposes that the depiction of meals has particular significance and resonance for women writers, and that these presentations of meals reflect larger concerns about women's domestic and public roles in a time of social and cultural change. Dinners serve as both a metaphor for the work of art and a source of inspiration for the fictional artist, while some works of fiction can be read as meals offered to the reader. As part of a larger domestic experience, dinners propose a new artistic language, which can be a crucial component of 20th-century women's art.
Diane McGee is Associate Dean, John Abbott College, Ste.Anne de Bellevue, Quebec.