Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Reiner Smolinski

Second Advisor

Mark Noble

Third Advisor

Lynee Lewis Gaillet


This dissertation explores the intersectionality of food and fiction in the formation of a uniquely American identity from approximately 1820-1860. The burgeoning nation of America was seeking its destiny as a democracy, and its people were trying to decide what “good” citizens should eat—and what they should read. Critical case studies of cookery books and novels by three well-known early American tastemakers—Lydia Maria Child, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Harriet Beecher Stowe—illuminate how the rhetorical spaces of the cookbook and the novel act as indicators and agents of early American views on gender, class, and race.

A rhetorical analysis of the cookery books reveals that Child, Hale, and Stowe urged American women to build patriotic values and agency in their private sphere by maintaining orderly Christian homes, practicing constant industry, and avoiding what Child refers to as the “false and wicked parade” of excessive luxury (Frugal Housewife 5). These authors enrich their themes through the depiction and meaning of food in their novels: Child in Hobomok (1824) challenges the gendered pillars of True Womanhood; Hale in Northwood (1827) promotes the natural aristocracy of the class of the yeoman farmer; and Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) utilizes the domestic praxis of various kitchens, cooks, and foods to differentiate race and morality, and to build a Christian pathos appeal for the end of slavery. Child, Hale, and Stowe published popular domestic texts and employed food in their novels as key ingredients in shaping views of gender, class, and race in the formation of a uniquely American identity.


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