A Literary History of Chocolate (Public lecture, 23rd September)

An advertisement for Fry's chocolate
Fry’s Chocolate, by Kim Traynor, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

“Chocolate is…the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits” (Justus von Liebig). As if you need any further enticement to indulge in two of life’s pleasures, our next Late Summer Lecture will tantalise your tastes with A Literary History of Chocolate. The editors of the blog, The Literary Kitchen, will explore the ways in which chocolate has been represented in writing, with recipes and edible treats along the way. The lecture starts at 17.30 in Alington House, with free refreshments from 17.00; there is no need to book and all are welcome.

The Literary Kitchen is a blog about literature and food which aims to engage the public by inspiring a love of reading whilst introducing a non-specialist audience to academic work. Through examining food in literature it is possible to learn much about both characterisation and context, as well as to allow people to recreate their favourite texts at home.

This lecture will literally give a taste of some of the best chocolate moments in literature. It is particularly fascinating to trace the use of the cocoa bean in imaginative texts due to its exotic and erotic connotations. It is variously a symbol of colonial exploitation, extravagant luxury, desire, and cosmopolitanism. Beginning with the new vogue for hot chocolate in Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, we will provide a brief survey of how chocolate has appeared in literature over time. With reference to the Venetian literary cafes of the eighteenth century, we will argue that chocolate is the perfect accompaniment to art, before moving on to focus on the twentieth century for the majority of the lecture. In the twentieth century we will draws examples from texts such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, as well as more popular novels such as Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate and Joanne Harris’s Chocolat.

Recipes and samples from the Literary Kitchen will be provided during the lecture.


Late Summer Lectures runs every Wednesday at 17.30 at Alington House, Durham, from 19th August to 7th October. All are warmly welcome to attend; see the full programme here. You can also download podcasts of lectures from previous series.

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