Julia Douthwaite, Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
'Babette's Feast': A Parable of French Politics and Cookery from the Age of Revolution (1789-1871)
Despite its popularity as a "food film" and icon of the Slow Food movement, “Babette's Feast” (1986) disappoints. In its saccharine treatment of the relations between Babette and her employers, Alex Gabriel's film fails to honor the spirit of Isak Dinesen's original story (1950). This paper reassesses Babette's story as a parable of specifically French politics and cookery. By replacing Babette in the lineage of the La Communarde of 1871 and her ancestors, the républicaines of 1789 and 1848, we will see how the final feast scene is none other than a republican banquet. "Babette's Feast" allows this genealogy to come into focus because its heroine is not only a radical pétroleuse (one of those women supposed to have set Paris on fire), she is also and primarily a great chef. And even if the politics of her past were muted by the film-maker in 1986, the relationship between food, fire and revolution is too potent a mix to ignore today.
Julia V. Douthwaite is Professor of French at the University of Notre Dame. She is author of “Exotic Women” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), “The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster: Dangerous Experiments in the Age of Enlightenment” (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and “The Frankenstein of 1790 and other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France” (University of Chicago Press 2012). In 2011-12, she organized and curated the American début of DIGNITY, a photographic exhibit created by Amnesty International France, which ran at Notre Dame alongside a lecture series on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the history of human rights. A companion volume, entitled “Art in the Service of Humanity: Rousseau and DIGNITY”, is in progress.
In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.
Workshops are held on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in 339 O’Shaughnessy unless otherwise specified.