Social Transformation through Art: Slow Food Ideology and the Social Protest Novel

Sasha Lombardi Ruggieri, Salve Regina University


Humanities’ scholars often address the question of what it means to be human in the age of technology. Looking at our modern landscape, we observe that the twentieth century has brought about continual change in the way the United States produces food for Americans. New technology has slowly and steadily created a food supply that many consumers deem problematic. As a result, the last couple of decades have revealed a noticeable push back on this modernized food system by the Slow Food Movement. This humanities dissertation addresses, more specifically, what does it mean to be an eater in the age of technology? An interesting place to find the answer to such a quandary is in the novel. How does fiction engage in the current cultural milieu when it comes to matters of our food? How do novelists participate in the broader cultural discourse, and how do they attempt to engage readers to be more responsive and active participants? In an attempt to answer these questions, four fictional works were selected and examined through the lens of cultural criticism. Mining for evidence of Slow Food ideology, I found that the novels explored the failings of our current industrial food system and illuminated alternative ways of interacting with our land, our animals, and our planet. I noticed several themes begin to emerge through my investigation. The novelists wrote extensively about the agricultural systems at work today, including the use of chemicals, pesticides, and genetically altered crops. There was evidence that the farmers have taken much of the abuse when it comes to industrialized methods. Whether financially or physically, farmers have suffered the greatest burden. The novels also demonstrated an undercurrent of resistance to modern agriculture through many of the attitudes, actions, and blame professed by characters. Also, the novels revealed an element of teaching through the dialogue between various well-informed characters and others who were unaware or ill informed. Another significant element was the illumination of positive examples of slowness in practice. Mindfulness, pleasure, conviviality, and community, all concepts of slow food were plentiful in the fictional works. In addition, the novels featured attempts to bring about social repair through a critique of environmental abuse and depictions of the efforts at preservation. In lively, readable, and dramatic examples the novelists construct characters, form dialogue, and create contrasts that invigorate the current cultural discussion about our food industry. For the sensitive, active reader, these novels communicate slow food ideology and add to the modern eater’s understanding of this complex concern.

Subject Area

Modern literature|Agriculture|Modern history

Recommended Citation

Ruggieri, Sasha Lombardi, "Social Transformation through Art: Slow Food Ideology and the Social Protest Novel" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI10283419.