Title

Naturalism’s Dietary Discourse: From Fasting Fads to Sinclair’s Social Reforms

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

This paper examines the literature of Upton Sinclair, famed American author of The Jungle, and how this 1906 novel led to the formation of Theodore Roosevelt’s Food and Drug Administration. I am particularly interested in Sinclair’s fascination with fasting fads, which reflect a larger Progressive-era preoccupation with physical fitness and the white male body. American literary naturalism, the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century movement to which Sinclair contributes, is a literature of and about human hunger. Many scholars have focused on The Jungle, a seminal book that revolutionized the food industry; however, little work has been done on the narratives about fasting and fitness that followed. My work therefore draws attention to a dietary discourse that reveals a great deal about early twentieth-century conceptions of masculinity, health, and the body. This paper is part of a larger effort to reconcile a counter-narrative of culturally disordered eating and self-restraint on the one hand with the ecological ethics so central to naturalism’s politically radical sentiments on the other.

DOI

10.2752/175174413X13758634982209