Gastronomic Humor in Medieval European Literature: Topoi and Historiography
Keywords:food, laughter, comedy, food images, gastronomic jokes, medieval literature
The article looks at topoi in gastronomic images of European medieval humoristic texts and seeks to examine the connection between food and comic discourses. The author shall also highlight how these images were evaluated and interpreted by scholars of a different methodological background. The attention is paid to motives in gastronomic humour and comic plots related to food, which were widely spread in Western culture. Gastronomic humour is displayed through examples that are to be found in such medieval literary genres as farce, fabliau, Schwank etc. The study aims to propose a common food comic code, explain the principles of its implementation in the text and show its typical constituent elements. The essay starts with an examination of anthropological and social factors that might have shaped and symbolically and functionally determined gastronomic humour. It is assumed that mouth has a significant role in the processes of organization of nutrition and laughter on the bodily level. Then the author overviews in detail the literary origins of gastronomic jokes tracing their formation from the antique comedy. The development and establishment of food comedy are shown through examples from medieval urban literature. Attention is also drawn to the context in which the text functions, in other words, the specifics of its implementation in time and space. It is revealed that nutrition often appears as a background for comic plots, and culinary spaces are typical locations in humoristic stories. According to their professional activity comedy characters are also closely related to food. It is noticed that the food itself becomes a subject of conflict in a comic situation. Main characters actions are concentrated around the food, drinks or dishes. Another aspect of gastronomic humour involves a situation where eating resembles defecation. A typical comic tool on its own is the analogy between having a meal and sex. The paper also describes the features of food that often appear in humoristic texts and therefore has a higher level of comic value.