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This article is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

Having Breakfast with Christopher Middleton Henry King
Let me start with the assertion that, in contemporary Western culture, breakfast is a uniquely private meal. Lunch is very often eaten in public, first at school, then later at work - even on weekends and holidays, in parks and caf├ęs. Dinner is often eaten at home, but then again there are its conspicuously public forms: a state banquet, a charity dinner, or eating out as a celebration. This leaves breakfast, with which we fortify ourselves before emerging into the public world, and which is generally shared (if at all) with those to whom one is closest: family members, or a lover. How much more often do you dine or lunch with strangers than breakfast? However, as the editors of Intimate Exposure: Essays on the Public-Private Divide in British Poetry Since 1950 point out,

boundaries between the categories of public and private are porous and affected by historical circumstance as well as by gender, ethnicity, nationality, and class. Today's private is yesterday's public: in the great houses of the Renaissance, activities which we now consider to be private, like taking care of children or relaxing, took place in large rooms in full view.1

In light of this, we cannot simply overlay the binary public/private onto that other antithesis, political/personal. It is because of a particular political arrangement that some activities are seen as public, and others as private. The private sphere may be one's personal space, embodied for most in the home; but it is ...


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