Actaeon, Artichokes, and Audrey II: Fear and Food in Popular Narratives

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Food has a dual physical and sociocultural relationship to human life. This duality positions images of food as uniquely powerful when subverted in literary or aesthetic representations for the purpose of evoking what Joyce Carol Oates (1998) calls “aesthetic fear.” Drawing on symbolism primarily from Classical mythology, Western European fairy tales, American horror movies, and resistance poetry from the Spanish Civil War, this paper explores four symbolic subversions of the food chain (when hunters are hunted; bloodthirsty plants; cannibalism; and hunger). With particular attention to gender roles and natural life cycles, these narratives illuminate the ways in which food symbolism disrupts cultural norms in order to evoke fear from an audience—not just on behalf of our physical safety, but also for the survival of our collective humanity.


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Margaret E. Foster

Margaret E. Foster

Margaret E. Foster ’18 graduated with Highest Honors in Cultural Studies and Communication; a double major in Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture; and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She currently serves as Research Coordinator for the Next Generation Science Exemplar (NGSX) System for Professional Learning, a project dedicated to epistemic justice in K-12 science education. Foster’s independent research interests include queer theory, toxic masculinity, and social media studies. If she were a month, she would be September; if she were a day of the week, she would be Tuesday.