Making a Man — 2009

Gentlemanly Appetites in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel

By Gwen Hyman

“The contributions to nineteenth-century cultural studies, food studies, and studies in the novel are striking and significant. The readings of wine and food are superb.... The linkage the author draws between aliment and the identity of the gentleman is groundbreaking.”

Donald E. Hall — Literary and Cultural Theory

“Gwen Hyman’s Making a Man: Gentlemanly Appetites in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel is a subtle and persuasive account of the nineteenth-century novel’s reliance on shifting relations between ‘the alimental gentleman’ and what that gentleman eats and drinks…. (A) significant and engaging book.”

Victorian Studies

“...with much wit and an alertness to how novels work, Making a Man cleverly fleshes out the complications of gentlemanly identity in the nineteenth-century novel.”


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Gruel and truffles, wine and gin, opium and cocaine. Making a Man: Gentlemanly Appetites in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel addresses the role of food, drink, and drugs in the conspicuously consuming nineteenth century in order to explore the question of what makes a man of a certain class in novels of the period. Gwen Hyman analyzes the rituals of dining room, drawing room, opium den, and cocaine lab, and the ways in which these alimentary behaviors make, unmake, and remake the gentlemanly body.

Making a Man makes use of food history and theory, literary criticism, anthropology, gender theory, economics, and social criticism to read gentlemanly consumers from Mr. Woodhouse, the gruel eater in Jane Austen's Emma, through the vampire and the men who hunt in Bram Stoker's Dracula. In Anne Brontë's Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wilkie Collins's Law and the Lady, Hyman contends, the gentleman is delineated and revealed through his cravings, his feasting and fasting. Hyman argues that appetite is a crucial means of casting light on the elusive identity of the gentleman, a figure who is the embodiment of power and yet is hardly embodied in Victorian literature.

Picture of Gwen Hyman

Gwen Hyman is assistant professor of humanities at The Cooper Union in New York City, where she also directs the Center for Writing and Language Arts. Her work on food, literature, and culture has been published in Gastronomica and Victorian Literature and Culture, and she is the coauthor, with Andrew Carmellini, of Urban Italian: True Stories and Simple Recipes from a Life in Food.

Cover of 'Making a Man'