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Stuff the Turkey! An Investigation of Food, Language and Performative Identity Construction in Eat Pray Love

  • Bronwen Hughes
Chapter

Abstract

Race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity are commonly considered the cornerstones of our identity, they are the first most visible or perceivable signs of what R. T. Lakoff qualifies as a person’s “major identity” (Lakoff 2006, p. 143). Such signs, however, often remain on the surface, as mere categories or taxonomical groupings; an individual or indeed a nation’s core identity often resides at a deeper, less conspicuous level: “minor identities, like culinary preferences and sophistication contribute significantly to our sense of ourselves: who we are, how competent we are, who our friends are or should be, whom we admire or disdain” (Lakoff 2006, p. 165). The present study aims to investigate the manner in which food, and culinary prowess, can serve to bring together individuals belonging to different nations and cultures within a Community of Practice (Eckert and Wenger 2005), a sort of macro-identitary category, which breaks down linguistic, cultural and nationalistic divides and forges emotional bonds that spring from a common appreciation of good food. This study investigates the original (American) and dubbed (Italian) versions of the film Eat Pray Love, with the main focus on the first part of the film Eat, which takes place in Italy. Though the film is not renowned for its critical acclaim, it is felt that the focus on food as a means of crossing boundaries (including those pertaining to the act of translation itself) and building communities, makes this audio-visual product worthy of study. The idea of ‘crossing’, seen as both physical and linguistic diasporic transferal, is in fact the leitmotif that runs through the entire film. Indeed, it is through the very visceral, shared emotions which stem from sharing good food and drink that the main character Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) is accepted within the Italian community. It must be said that the manner in which these shared emotions are portrayed in the American and Italian versions differs considerably, thus close attention will be paid to the many markers of identity discourse such as culture-bound terms, specialised lexis, code-mixing, code-switching and phonetic variation.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bronwen Hughes
    • 1
  1. 1.Università degli Studi Suor Orsola BenincasaNapoliItaly

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