Author and educator. Stanford University, Stanford, CA, assistant professor of English, 2000—.
Contributor of essays to periodicals, including Diacritics, ELH, New Literary History, Nineteenth-Century Literature, PMLA, Romanticism on the Net, and Studies in Romanticism.
Denise Gigante is an author and professor who focuses on eighteenth-and nineteenth-century literature. In 2005 she edited the anthology Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy, which is a collection of writings about food and culture. Her first book, Taste: A Literary History, was also published in 2005. In the book, Gigante explores the relationship between the aesthetic sense and the actual physiology of taste in literature. She begins her discussion with John Milton's Paradise Lost and moves on to examine writings by eighteenth-century philosophers such as David Hume and Edmund Burke, and nineteenth-century Romantics, including Charles Lamb, Lord Byron, and John Keats. Gigante attempts to show how taste developed as a metaphor over these formative years. She also gives special attention to the notion of restaurant dining and cuisine, which rose out of a culture dominated by the middle class.
Taste elicited mostly positive reviews. "Gigante's full-bodied definition of taste embraces metaphors of appetite, digestion, gastro-intestinal discomfort, flatulence and excretion: her study tracks evolving notions of aesthetic pleasure by focusing with great flair on what constitutes disgust," noted Jane Stabler in the Wordsworth Circle. Stabler continued, "This book is the fruit of an impressive amount of reading and research and … it provides food for future years." Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker, felt similarly, stating, "Gigante has a nice section on Charles Lamb in which she shows how, in his famous essay on roasted pig, he invented a comic but still largely melancholic, elegiac tone with which to write about eating." Additionally, Library Journal reviewer Lee Ehlers pointed out that the author "synthesizes an impressive array of literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific details" and "she clearly articulates ideas that have only been hinted at previously."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Harper's, February, 2006, Denis Donoghue, "The Discreet Charm of the Bougeoisie: Taste and Middle-Class Values," review of Taste: A Literary History, p. 89.
Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Lee Ehlers, review of Taste, p. 84.
New Yorker, April 4, 2005, Adam Gopnik, review of Taste.
Wordsworth Circle, autumn, 2005, Jane Stabler, review of Taste, p. 155.
Stanford University, Department of English Web site,http://english.stanford.edu/ (June 23, 2006), author profile.