Janine Barchas on “Tastes of Home in Emma” ~ from Jane Austen Society Nederland

A great article on Emma by Janine Barchas:


Tastes of Home in Emma

                                           by Dr Janine Barchas

Whereas Marcel Proust offers us one evocative madeleine, Jane Austen talks of pork, apples, and cheeses.

I was born in Holland, where I spent my childhood in Den Haag until the age of eleven. I now live in Texas and, like all displaced souls around the globe, know what it is like to crave foods whose tastes and smells convey a sense of home (for me that includes hagelslag, stroopwafels, oude kaas, pannekoeken met spek, and, of course, verse haring). Although my fancy local grocery store in Austin, Texas, now carries many of the Dutch foods from my youth (or the ingredients that would allow me to make them myself), part of me protests the very idea of relocated delicacies. Some foods are simply not going to taste the same in a different place. Eating imported stroopwafels in Texas (perversely made with honey instead of echte stroop) violates a palpable sense of authenticity and belonging.

In many respects, Emma is a novel about that sense of belonging to a certain place, which Austen rather grandly refers to as “amor patriae.” Remarkably, in Emma the central action never leaves Highbury, a small imaginary village in Surrey. All of Austen’s other heroines, whatever their financial or social dependence, traverse significant geographic distances, travelling by necessity or pleasure to multiple counties and towns, including fashionable cities like London and Bath, or seaside resorts like Lyme Regis. But the “handsome, clever, and rich” Emma Woodhouse has never seen the sea and admits that the picnic at celebrated Box Hill, a mere seven miles away, is her first-ever sojourn to even this nearby tourist spot. Critics are divided about the novel’s narrow focus, with some warming to Emma’s small-town setting as snug or consoling and others detecting an acute claustrophobia or constant dread of feeling trapped and boxed in (think of all those puns hiding in Box Hill and Boxing Day)….

Continue reading at the Jane Austen Society Nederland website – Barchas on Emma.


barchas-janineJanine Barchas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813. Look for the upcoming “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796” on this website as well . Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, will be curating an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity – look for this in 2016.

c2015, Janine Barchas

One thought on “Janine Barchas on “Tastes of Home in Emma” ~ from Jane Austen Society Nederland

  1. Read the whole article, Deb. Really enjoyed it. However all these items bought and food eaten seems time specific? Nowadays I suppose if we eat in MacDonalds, or a Jamie Oliver’s or choose to drink our coffee in a Costa or a Starbucks that would have meaning in a novel now. Can all this be applied to a universal view of the world? It probably can’t.


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