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Carsten Meiner is professor of French literature and culture. He has an MA in comparative literature (University of Copenhagen, 1997) and defended his PhD at the University of Paris VIII with professor Jacques Rancière as supervisor in 2002. He was appointed Professor of French literature and culture, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen in 2011. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University, Columbia University and Stanford University. He was the principal investigator of the research project "French Literary history: cultures of topology" funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark 2014-2019.
Primary fields of research
Carsten Meiner was originally a specialist in 18th century French literature and philosophy. His research today focuses on broader questions concerning the relation between French culture and literary history covering the period from the late seventeenth century up until Proust. Here he focuses on the historically critical literary articulation of otherwise typical French cultural phenomena such as for instance gastronomy, fashion, intellectualism, revolution, gallantry. Theoretically, these analyses are supported by reappraisals of the notion of the literary topos.
He has published monographs and edited volumes on cultural phenomena such as Clarity (Les Mutations de la clarté, Honoré de Champion, Paris, 2007 and La Clarté à l’âge classique, with Emmanuel Bury, Garnier Classiques, 2013), catastrophes (The Cultural Life of Catastrophes, with Kristin Veel, De Gruyter Verlag, Berlin, 2012), Horse-carriages (Le Carrosse littéraire et l’invention du hasard, « Les Littéraires », PUF, Paris, 2008), the Locus Amoenus (Mutating Idylls, Peter Lang, 2019) and the Beach (with Katrine Andersen,Routledge forthcoming 2023).
He has also edited theoretical volumes on the notion of the literary topos for instance Le défi de la topologie littéraire, with Remo Ceserani, Revue Romane, 2007 and Literature and contingency, with Tina Lupton, Routledge 2020. In "The double Topology: Reflections on the Function and History of Literary Topoi", Poetics Today, 2022 he has given his own take on literary topology.
Carsten Meiner is currently working on a book-project with the working title: Gastro-Skepticism. A History of Eating in French Literature. The premise of the project is that contemporary books on French gastronomy tend to start with a conventional praise of the importance and quality of food in France compared to other countries. Such routine acclaim can in fact be traced back to the renaissance and was consecrated in 2010 when “the French gastronomic meal” was officially inscribed on UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Historians have shown how this continuous historical consecration would not have been possible without the powerful gastronomic discourse, which unremittingly affirmed the aesthetic excellence, the social value and dietarian benefits of “the French meal”. This self-congratulatory discourse materialized over the course of time in cookbooks and gastronomic writings, later in travel guides, marketing initiatives and tourism discourse.
Gastro-skepticism shows how French literature from the renaissance until today rather than illustrate the excellence and many benefits of “the French meal”, explored the problems of living in a culture of gastronomical self-glorification. The book demonstrates this literary gastro-skepticism in a series of chapters focusing on "Feasts gone wrong", "Eating alone", "Female nausea" and "Eating the inedible". The book offers a both critical, surprising and entertaining history of French gastronomy as seen by French literature.
Parts of the book have already been or will be published in shorter versions. "Feasts gone wrong" has already been published in the journal Food and History (2022). The chapter on "Female Nausea" is forthcoming in a French volume Le Banquet des Belles Lettres, with the title "De la gastro-critique littéraire féministe : « Aie le courage de te servir de ta propre nausée". The chapter "Eating alone" is forthcoming in the journal of the International Association of Comparative literature (AILC), Recherche littéraire / Literary Research in 2024 under the title « Manger seul: angoisse et mémoire. Réflexions sur un topos moderne ».
Meiner teaches undergraduate courses on French literature and history from the renaissance until today. At the graduate level, his seminars have focused on themes such as “Revolutions”, “Prostitution”, “Gastronomy”, “Gallantry” and their historical and literary articulations.