Shelf Life

Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing

First Advisor

Susan Holbrook


Defamiliarization, Food Studies, Humour, Poetry, Preservation, Stein




Shelf Life is a poetry manuscript that explores themes of cultural, literary, and self-preservation through the motif of food preservation. From peppers to prosciutto, sauces to canned soups, my thesis reflects the versatility of food narratives and cookbooks through its variety of poetic styles and subject matters, each poem a kind of recipe that investigates our relationships between food, memory, and language. Shelf Life fully embraces the sensory, evocative language of food preparation, challenging traditional narratives of restraint that often positions women’s pleasure as secondary without undermining the domestic sphere. My thesis also uses the familiar language of food to further open dialogues on stigmatized topics such as grief, mental health, and sexuality that may be difficult to address at the dinner table. Through its often playful, teasing language; its use of puns, double-entendres, and parody; and its multiple allusions and literary and historic references, Shelf Life ultimately promotes a self-sustaining narrative by providing readers a text that lasts beyond one reading.