On food faith and psychoanalysis: reading Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast

Rosemary Rizq

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Abstract

Isak Dinesen’s 1958 novella Babette’s Feast tells the story of how a small, quarrelsome Lutheran community in Norway comes to be transformed by the arrival of a stranger, the French cook Babette. In her deceptively simple tale, Dinesen adopts explicitly Eucharistic language and imagery to convey the connection between eating and faith, exploring via rich use of metaphor the way in which we come to be inhabited and nourished by the other. In this paper, I follow Dinesen’s sacramental perspective by offering the Catholic notion of transubstantiation as a model for furthering psychoanalytic theorising about the presence of the other within. Following an outline of Dinesen’s story, I draw on Freud (1921), Abraham and Torok (1994) and Kristeva (1990) to explore differing notions of unconscious identification, incorporation and the metaphorical basis of subjectivity. I develop these ideas through a discussion of the central celebratory dinner given by Babette and conclude by considering some of the implications of the story for psychoanalytic practice. 
 
© 2017 BPF and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The attached document (embargoeduntil 16/10/2018) is an author produced version of a paper publishedin the British Journal of Psychotherapy, in accordance with thepublisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version ofrecord) is available online at the link below. Some minor differencesbetween this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest yourefer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychotherapy
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2017

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