Pina Palma’s Savoring Power, Consuming the Times: The Metaphors of Food in Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature is an innovative look at the writings of five important Italian authors—Boccaccio’s Decameron, Pulci’s Morgante, Boiardo’s Innamorato, Ariosto’s Furioso, and Aretino’s Ragionamento. Through the prism of gastronomy, Palma examines these key works in the Western literary canon, bringing into focus how their authors use food and gastronomy as a means to critique the social, political, theological, philosophical, and cultural beliefs that constitute the fabric of the society in which they live.
Palma begins with the anthropological principle that food represents the universal transformation of nature into culture and that it functions as a language that distinguishes every society and its culture from others. This suggests that food—its preparation, presentation, and consumption—is more than merely a source of nourishment. Rather, Palma argues, foodstuffs function as ethical and aesthetic instruments through which the literary hero’s virtues and flaws, achievements and failures, can be gauged. Food also serves as a means to maintain, as well as to negotiate, power, social hierarchy, and relationships between the powerful and the powerless. Touching on three centuries that were pivotal for Italian culture, literature, and history, as well as three literary genres, Palma’s analysis connects the descriptions and references to food found in these works with the wider culture of Italy in the late medieval and early modern period.
“With clarity and wit, Pina Palma has used the central metaphor of food to uncover unexpectedly fresh dimensions of Renaissance intellectual traditions. Her fascinating and original exploration of the connections between food and sexuality, political power, moral hypocrisy, ascetic discipline of the body, and the world of the appetites in a selection of key Italian Renaissance works is sure to engage historians as well as literary scholars.” — Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University
“This excellent volume examines some of the major works of Italian medieval and Renaissance literature from the perspective of their references to food and its consumption. It makes a very significant contribution to Italian studies (in its various categories) and can even be of interest to non-Italianists for the insights and information it provides for other geographical areas and literatures in late-medieval/early-modern Europe.” — Konrad Eisenbichler, University of Toronto
“Savoring Power, Consuming the Times is not simply a book about food in Italian literature. It is a subtle and far-reaching work of criticism, which discloses an original aspect of the Renaissance. Not only does food provide a way of accessing a privileged perspective on the Renaissance religious, philosophical, and moral thinking; but it is also the perfect means of building an unexpected web of relationships between authors." — Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Libera Universita di Lingue e Comunicazione, IULM
“Palma . . . traces food-related metaphors and representations of food itself through a judicious, representative selection of premodern literary writings, with particular—and particularly revealing—emphasis on Boccaccio’s Decameron, Pulci’s Morgante, Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato, Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, and Aretino’s _Ragionamento _ . . . This richly detailed, consistently fascinating study deepens readers’ understanding of early-modern Italian literature and shows there is much more to literary criticism than the merely literary. Highly recommended.” — Choice
“Savoring Power, Consuming the Times studies a group of important literary works of the Italian Renaissance in an attempt to understand the ideological and literary implications of food metaphors. . . . The main thrust of the book remains high literature where the analysis of food metaphors is the key to understanding that culture in its broadest context.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“. . . The strength of Palma’s book is the variety of texts considered and the messages she is able to tease out in her analysis. Her weaving of historical context throughout her literary analysis not only supports her themes, but also allows Savoring Power, Consuming the Times to serve as a relevant text for historians, as well as for literary scholars.” — Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
“. . . The reality of this beautiful book is that it analyzes food not only as nourishment but as reference and ‘tool’ used by culture and literature to teach, explain, and critique. Pina Palma’s book is an intriguing read that goes well beyond appearances and brings to light an intricate network of connections that a modern reader would definitely miss without the help of her accurate and well-balanced transversal reading.” — Renaissance and Reformation
“In undertaking this broader analysis, Palma illuminates the shared ideas and concerns that link her five authors across three centuries. Her work, then, is more than a simple canonical study. . . . it is a rich and useful work with many fascinating ideas for students of literature, history, philosophy, and cultural theory.” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“Pina Palma investigates the representation of food in medieval and Renaissance Italian literature by stressing its metaphorical meanings and its multifaceted connections with language, society, history, politics, power, art, and nature. . . . Savoring Power, Consuming the Times provides a stimulating opportunity to reread some masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance Italian literature through the lens of food, and to discover fascinating, complex, and sometimes overlooked metaphorical meanings.” — Modern Language Review
“The volume of Pina Palma presents the analysis of a series of works or Italian literature medieval and early modern age, centered on food and the different implications it entails: the representation of power relations among social groups to ethical evaluation of the reports and human behavior.” — The Medieval Review
A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2013