21W.730-4 Writing on Contemporary Issues: Food for Thought: Writing and Reading about the Cultures of Food

Fall 2008

Painting of plates filled with cherries and peaches.
"Still Life with Plate of Cherries" (1885-87) by Paul Cézanne. (Image courtesy of the WebMuseum.)

Course Description

"What people do with food is an act that reveals how they construe the world."

- Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook

If you are what you eat, what are you? Food is at once the stuff of life and a potent symbol; it binds us to the earth, to our families, and to our cultures. In this class, we explore many of the fascinating issues that surround food as both material fact and personal and cultural symbol. We read essays by Toni Morrison, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, and others on such topics as family meals, eating as an "agricultural act" (Berry), slow food, and food's ability to awaken us to "our own powers of enjoyment" (M. F. K. Fisher). We will also read Pollan's most recent book, In Defense of Food, and discuss the issues it raises as well as its rhetorical strategies. Assigned essays will grow out of memories and the texts we read, and may include personal narrative as well as essays that depend on research. Revision of essays and workshop review of writing in progress are an important part of the class. Each student will make one oral presentation in this class.

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Dr. Karen Boiko

Course Meeting Times

2 sessions / week
1.5 hours / session