A Critique in Cake #BakeMyThesis

“This is your PhD,” my friends said, proudly presenting a cake decorated with plastic animals. “It’s a farm! And you do farming, yeah?”

farm phd cake

Sort of. I research agricultural labour in eighteenth-century England (with an emphasis on the “labour” bit). But there was no labour in this cake-world: no farmers, no dairymaids or ploughboys, no gangs of harvest labourers, no carters or threshers. Human labour was entirely absent. I thought this was quite funny and ate the percy pigs happily.

farm cake 2

And yet, the unearthly green icing hinted at something deeper and darker than its inner chocolate layer. Staring into the glowing blue eyes of the monstrous cat-like creature in the centre I realised my birthday cake was not the simple-yet-adorable attempt at representation it first seemed, but in fact a sophisticated and devastating critique of the ideology of the eighteenth-century landed gentry. My friends had (inadvertently) produced a brilliant pastiche of the idealised pastoral scenes found in some landscape paintings, depicting a mythic countryside of ease and abundance populated by fluffy sheep and golden wheat. Continue reading

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