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Palgrave Macmillan

Food, Consumption, and Masculinity in American Hardboiled Fiction

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  • © 2023


  • Demonstrates how food in crime fiction is used to construct the gender, sexual, or racial makeup of characters
  • Extends critical focus to food consumption and masculinity in crime fiction
  • Reads hardboiled fiction to illustrate the gradual process of redefining consumerism in America

Part of the book series: Crime Files (CF)

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Table of contents (8 chapters)


About this book

Food, Consumption, and Masculinity in American Hardboiled Fiction draws on three related bodies of knowledge: crime fiction criticism, masculinity studies, and the cultural analysis of food and consumption practices from a critical eating studies perspective. In particular, this book focuses on food as an analytical category in the study of tough masculinity as represented in American hardboiled fiction. Through an examination of six American novels: Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, Leigh Brackett's No Good from a Corpse, Dorothy B. Hughes's In a Lonely Place, Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, and Rex Stout's Champagne for One, this book shows how these novels reflect the gradual process of redefining consumption and consumerism in America, which traditionally has been coded as feminine. Marta Usiekniewicz shows thatfood and eating also reflect power relations and larger social and economic structures connected to class, gender, geography, sexuality, and ability, to name just a few.


Food, Consumption, and Masculinity in American Hardboiled Fiction makes a highly original contribution to the literature on hard-boiled fiction and its figuration of masculinity. Focusing on the neglected area of food and consumption in this fiction, Usiekniewicz breaks new theoretical ground by analyzing the way in which hard-boiled masculinity is organized around dynamics of incorporation, excorporation, consumption, penetration, and control. She demonstrates that the fantasies of masculinity that shape this fiction are not merely about large scale social dynamics but about the way in which these dynamics play out on the level of bodily boundaries. A must read for crime fiction scholars.” (Christopher Breu, Illinois State University)

“Marta Usiekniewicz has written a book that leaves us all in her debt. Food, Consumption, and Masculinity in American Hardboiled Fiction renews and extends our understanding of the tough guys of hardboiled fiction by showing how their toughness is constituted by what and how they consume. Combining theoretical sophistication with clear and incisive readings of a wide range of texts, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in crime fiction, gender, and popular culture.” (Prof. David Schmid, Department of English, University at Buffalo)

Authors and Affiliations

  • University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

    Marta Usiekniewicz

About the author

Marta Usiekniewicz is an Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw’s American Studies Center. A specialist in American literature and cultural studies, she has published on crime fiction, disability studies, and intersections of fatness, race, and consumption. She teaches courses on embodiment in popular culture, food studies, and sexualities. She is on the editorial board of Gender Forum -- An Internet Journal of Gender Studies.

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