The Culinary and Alimentary Tropes of Selected Southeast Asian Literary Texts

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English Language and Literature



First Advisor

Oscar V. Campomanes, PhD


The study focuses on Merlinda Bobis’ novel Banana Heart Summer, Stella Kon’s play Emily of Emerald Hill, and Chua Kok Yee’s short fiction anthology Without Anchovies. How the text generates meanings of food as structure of language and how food manifests itself as a signifier for social relationships is the main question which this research seeks to address. This study investigates, with food as focal lens, the evocative ways in which the experiences and realities of the characters in the texts and their milieu are captured by culinary and alimentary tropes. This study’s mode of critical inquiry investigates the ways different texts share common alimentary and culinary features characterizing the aesthetics of these contemporary Southeast Asian literary texts. The present study likewise analyzes the food tropes and regard the prevailing norms of Southeast Asian gastronomic discourse as a form of challenging the notion of the structure of language in the text and how food unveils its symbolism of relationships. In our postcolonial world, the compelling energy behind literary criticism is its attempt to place narratives in specific contexts and to highlight how the texts negotiate with the past whose looming specter in the present must be surfaced. Food, eating and consumption are never complete processes by and of themselves. While they can lead to satiation, they can also lead to more hunger, more queries, and lingering discomforts.

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