We are delighted to announce that Professor Jennifer Yee has been awarded a TORCH Humanities micro-fund grant for her project to create a real-life version of the wedding cake from Gustave Flaubert’s 1857 novel Madame Bovary. This is a highly original way of marking the bicentenary of Flaubert’s birth (on the 12th December 1821). It is also an opportunity for the French Sub-Faculty to work with a well-known local institution, the Oxford Cake Shop, on a unique project. Making the cake will bring attention to an overlooked aspect of Flaubert’s famous novel: the strange, tragi-comic object that is the Bovarys’ wedding cake, which sums up Emma Bovary’s impossible, ridiculous, but heart-felt Romantic aspirations. Flaubert’s detailed description of the cake reflects his interest in kitsch and in outdated visual tropes, which is much less well-known than the use of verbal clichés and stereotypes in his writing.
Professor Yee said:
‘I am very excited to be able to go ahead with this project. It is timely because of the Flaubert bicentenary but also because, coming out of this grim period of lockdown, I think we all have a lot to gain from literature, including – perhaps particularly – from its surprising and humorous side. There is a very serious aspect to this project, which relates to work I am doing on material objects and the visual arts in literary texts, but creating a real cake is certainly not a standard research ‘output’ and I am extremely grateful to the Humanities Cultural Programme for having welcomed such a quirky and unusual project.’
Jennifer Yee is Professor of Literature in French at the University of Oxford (Christ Church). She completed her undergraduate studies in Sydney and her postgraduate studies in Paris. Her research is principally on nineteenth-century culture and she is the President of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes. While her main research strand is on colonialism, exoticism and postcolonialism, she also works on the relationship between writing and the visual. Her third book, The Colonial Comedy: Imperialism in the French Realist Novel, was published with Oxford University Press in 2016. Her earlier monographs are: Clichés de la femme exotique: un regard sur la littérature coloniale française entre 1871 et 1914 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000) and Exotic Subversions in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction (Legenda, 2008). Co-edited publications include France and ‘Indochina’: Cultural Representations (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2005) and a special issue of French Studies, ‘A Postcolonial Nineteenth-Century’ (72:2, April 2018). She is currently working on another co-edited volume, French Decadence in a Global Context: Colonialism and Exoticism. She has also published articles and chapters on topics including Flaubert and objects, Baudelaire and the visual arts, and colonial postcards.
To find out more about the Humanities Cultural Programme funded Micro-Fund project please visit: Making Madame Bovary’s Wedding Cake Project
Image credit: Bibliothèque Nationale de France