Public lecture: Food in Arnold Bennett’s Fiction

Catherine Burgass gave a talk for the Arnold Bennett Society to a capacity crowd at the Quaker Meeting House in Newcastle.  Unlike a Quaker meeting, which is based on shared silence, Catherine spoke for the best part of an hour.  She argued that, while one might expect descriptions of food as background detail in Bennett’s realist fiction, food is in fact integral to the construction of character and even plot.  Bacon, eggs, beef stew and chocolate (the latter explicitly associated with the Quaker tradition in comic novel, The Card) operate as symbolic sites of dramatic antagonism, crisis and resolution.  The audience was highly appreciative and ready with further examples from the life and works, including Bennett’s practice of getting Staffordshire oatcakes sent up to him in London by train from the Potteries.