Food and the Female Body: Paralleling the Food Market and the Prostitution Market in John Cleland's Fanny Hill Open Access

Gray, Mary Joy (2014)

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This thesis examines the theme of consumption as the driving force behind the power structure present in John Cleland's Fanny Hill. The market emerges as the primary site in which to engage this theme. The analysis begins in the Covent Garden food market with Mr. Norbert as this scene serves to most directly parallel the food market with the prostitution market.

The first chapter explores consumption in its two major forms: gastronomic and commercial. The text highlights gastronomic consumption and how it operates to pit the woman as a consumable object. To accomplish this, Cleland uses the direct presence of food, the descriptive food language, the strategic placement of meals in relation to sex scenes, and the duality of the table and the mouth. These four uses of food emerge during Fanny's interactions with her sexual partners, marking the power dynamic of the consumer-consumed relationship. Following the discussion of gastronomic consumption is the commercial consumption in the prostitution market. Tracking Fanny's introduction, initiation, and sale within the prostitution market portrays her as consumable goods; ultimately, this demonstrates how her female marketers just as readily consume her as her male clients.

The second chapter examines how Cleland uses the concept of reverse consumption, the process by which the consumer becomes the consumed, to reverse the previously established power structure. Beginning with gastronomic consumption, the text looks at Cleland's focus on the mouth and his depiction of the vagina as a metaphorical, sexual mouth. By the physical positioning of the prostitutes' bodies and their use of sex for their own pleasure, Fanny and Louisa use reverse gastronomic consumption to assert power over Will and the flower boy. The next section explores how these two women pay the boys after sex, an action that denotes a reverse commercial consumption whereby the prostitutes prostitute the men.

Through highlighting the various forms of consumption and the concept of reverse consumption, the text closely tracks Fanny's development as a character, the question of whether or not Fanny Hill serves as an example of female empowerment, and, more broadly, the greater significance of studying food in literature.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Preliminary Pages

Distribution Agreement

Approval Sheet

Abstract Cover Page


Cover Page

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Consumption in the Food and Prostitution Markets in Fanny Hill


Section 1: Gastronomic Consumption: The Female Body as a Consumable Object

Direct Presence of Food

Use of Descriptive Food Language

The Strategic Placement of Meals in Relation to Sex Scenes

The Dual Functionality of the Bed and the Table


Section 2: Commercial Consumption: The Body as Consumable Goods

Introduction Into the Prostitution Market

Initiation into the Prostitution Market

Preparation for the Market and its Customers

The Transactions Begin

Prostitution as a Business


Alternate Metaphors

Chapter 2: Reverse Consumption and the Reversal of Power Within the Markets of Fanny Hill


Section 1: Reverse Gastronomic Consumption and the Female Mouth

The Mouth

Vagina as Mouth

Power Through Reverse Consumption

Power Through Pleasure

The Mouth and Power

Reverse Consumption and Power


Section 2: Reverse Commercial Consumption and the Female Transactor


Reverse Commercial Consumption

Conclusion Food for Thought

Disparate Views

Literary Implications

Philosophical Implications

Societal Implications


Works Cited

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