Literature

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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literature, in its representation of sweets, presents a wide range of meanings, both positive and negative. Sweets appear in almost every form of imaginative writing from the Hindu Vedas onward. When sweets grace the table, they also grace the page. A society that develops a culture of sweets tends to both portray and examine that culture in its literature, both in the sense of celebrating the variety and frequency of sweet dishes, and in the depth of meaning that sweets carry in that literature. Sweets and sweetness are remarkably pliable, employed to illustrate notions of eroticism, aesthetics, innocence, immaturity, comfort, luxury, satire, disgust, and the uses of power, to name a few. Throughout history, the literature of sweetness has featured prominently in societies that brought confection to high levels of artistry, especially ancient India, where sugar refining was invented; the medieval Arab lands, which brought the art of sugar to new heights; late medieval and Renaissance Europe, which elaborated upon the mystical ramifications of sweetness; and the post-industrial Western world, in which sugar’s declining expense brought it into every household.