David Rutledge’s article “Distaste: Joyce Carol Oates and Food” closes the 2014 issue of Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies, which began publishing in July of this year.
In many of her short stories and novels, Joyce Carol Oates depicts an unhealthy relationship with food. The range of these unhealthy relationships is wide, from overeating to the point of suicide, in Expensive People, to starving oneself in an attempt to deny one’s physical nature, in “Orange” and them. Overindulgence is a means for attempting to fill that space where the soul should be; undereating is often an attempt to deny one’s place in the social world. The eating disorders she portrays are rooted in both personal and social causes. While these depictions are unique to each character, over all Oates’s depictions of food develop a critique of American values. An understanding of Oates’s theme of food must include psychological, cultural and poetic approaches.
Bearing Witness invites new submissions on all aspects of Joyce Carol Oates’s writing, and is particularly interested in submissions treating those works and genres that have yet to receive significant critical attention.