Recipe as a Bodily Text

Suyoung Son, associate professor in Asian studies, Cornell University

EALC Lecture Series

How were women’s cooking recipes read and transmitted in Chosŏn Korea? Dr. Son's talk focuses on the two sixteenth-century cookbooks of the elite women and examines how the collection of women’s recipes served as a precious family monument and analog for women’s feminine virtue. While the material shape of the collections reveals the primacy of Confucian patriarchal impulse to shape women’s writing as legitimate patrimony, it does not diminish the significance of the corporeality of female work—that is, women’s cooking and penmanship as practice of physical handiwork, bodily discipline, and embodied skill and knowledge. Instead of being encapsulated as the undervalued female knowledge within physical bounds, the cookbooks in fact embraced a broader sense of text than the lettered signification and proliferated their meanings via the interplay of verbal and physical textualities.

Suyoung Son is Associate Professor in Asian Studies at Cornell University. She is a literary and cultural historian of early modern China and Korea (1500-1900), focusing on the social practices of writing and reading in light of book history, history of knowledge, and studies of gender and authorship. Her first book, Writing for Print: Publishing and the Making of Textual Authority in Late Imperial China (Harvard UP), explores the intricate relationship between manuscript tradition and print convention, peer patronage and popular fame, and gift exchange and commercial transactions in the widespread practice of self-publishing of writers in late imperial China. She is writing her second book, tentatively titled Culinary Books and Recipes for Knowledge in Chosŏn Korea, which examines how cookery writings in Chosŏn Korea mediated between textual knowledge and embodied practice.