Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Nancy Cook

Commitee Members

Ashby Kinch, Albert Borgmann


literature, indigenous, food communication, eating, body, affect


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority


Philosophers, social scientists, poets, critics––when we want to express some understanding about our relationship to the world, we turn to the belly. Literary food, eating, and related biological processes such as digestion and defecation are often dismissed as trivial details that at most sell realism or complicate character. Through a complex, dynamic interaction between social, psychological, and biological influences, food on the page manipulates our unconscious responses to reinforce, complicate, or resist a text’s explicit themes, and construct subtextual alternatives. This thesis develops a new method for reading what I call “belly writing.” Exploiting anxieties and automatic responses related to eating, authors use belly writing to authenticate and vivify their textual worlds, cultural values, and histories that otherwise elude us. Learning to “read” food illuminates alimentary authorial choices and sharpens awareness of how these relate to our own responses, altering our reading and enriching the thematic landscape. Though belly writing is useful across literary genres, and perhaps beyond academe, I narrow my scope to focus on contemporary works by authors indigenous to the American West: Darcy McNickle’s Wind From An Enemy Sky, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, and Louise Erdrich’s The Master Butchers Singing Club. I occasionally depart from this list to make comparisons and clarifications useful to defining the method.

This record is only available
to users affiliated with
the University of Montana.

Request Access



© Copyright 2015 Michele D. Van Haecke