Against culinary art: Mina Loy and the modernist starving artist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The starving artist is one of modernism’s most recognizable figures and a central feature of the period’s self-mythologization. This chapter investigates the history of this figure from the perspective of modernism’s conflicted relationship to food. Ultimately, it argues that the starving artist uses the abstention from food to dramatize the uncomfortable articulation between modernism as a social phenomenon, marked by the development of an autonomous literary field, and modernism’s characteristic aesthetic positions. In order to develop this argument, this chapter first traces a genealogy of the rejection of so-called “culinary art,” from Kant and post-Kantian aesthetic philosophy to many of the key aesthetic thinkers of modernism. It then argues that the modernist starving artist emerges as the figure who embodies the modernist opposition to culinary art. Finally, it suggests that Mina Loy’s novel Insel offers a sustained critique of the modernist starving artist that moves fluidly between an understanding of its social and aesthetic dimensions and that seeks to offer a feminist revision of this exclusively male figure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGastro-modernism
Subtitle of host publicationfood, literature, culture
EditorsDerek Gladwin
Place of PublicationClemson, South Carolina, USA
PublisherClemson University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781942954699
ISBN (Print)9781942954682
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Hunger
  • Starving Artist
  • Mina Loy
  • Modernism

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