Eating and repeating : mimesis in food rhetorics



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There is emerging, in the discipline of rhetoric and composition, a rhetoric of food. In this dissertation, I map the various approaches to food rhetorics, and I look at three different foods: burritos, kale, and kombucha. Using these foods as commonplaces, I explore the social and rhetorical discourse around them. I use “a cultural biography of things” methodology to describe the history of the burrito and use that history to contextualize Chipotle Mexican Grill’s new media strategies. Throughout the cultural biography of the burrito and the analysis of Chipotle’s marketing, I highlight a theatrical mimesis that blurs the lines between imitation and reality. I suggest that kale can be associated the books of Michael Pollan, whose work, I argue, constitutes a genre that establishes a set of conventions for how we think and communicate about food. I begin by looking at how Chipotle builds its corporate ethos by citing Michael Pollan’s books on its website. Then I approach Pollan’s body of work as a genre, showing how it establishes certain conventions in food discourse. We see transmissions of these conventions throughout food networks. I look at how fermented foods, like kombucha, travel through alternative food networks, like groups of “fermentos” led by Sandor Katz, until they have proliferated to the point of becoming mainstream. I show how Michael Pollan engages with the world of countercultural food movements like fermentos and argue that Pollan’s engagement with fermentos signals a move into posthuman rhetorics. Building on the idea of micropolitics, I posit a compostmodern micro(be)politics that re-articulates the human not as an agentive individual governed by autonomy, but as an ecology itself, situated within other ecologies. I conclude by reading “nobody cares what you ate for lunch” memes as a response to and provocation to an abundance of online food talk. We can read these memes as evidence of the significance of online food discourse. Instead of taking the memes at face value, we can ask, “who does care about food in online networks?”