English 2020

Themes in Literature and Culture

Food and Literature 





This class will look at food and eating as it is presented in a variety of texts. We will examine food imagery and associations from cultural, historical, social, psychological, aesthetic and economic perspectives. Texts will range from ancient recipes to contemporary accounts of eating disorders. We will address questions about the production and consumption of food (as represented by the texts we read) and how food is both a vital necessity for survival and a vehicle for social exchange and communication of culture. 


Food imagery, the metaphor of consumption, the relative attention or neglect of the background of food production, etc. are all profound markers of aesthetic and cultural values. By looking at how individual works represent food (or those who eat food), we will gain insight into the significance of food and eating to our world.




The main class text will be The Pleasures of the Table: A Literary Anthology, edited by Christina Hardyment.  In addition, students will be required to read selections available as e-texts through D2L or through E-Reserve at the library.



Students will be responsible for careful reading, analysis of texts, and attention to the techniques employed to convey ideas and communicate about food.  From literary terms (“image,” “metaphor,” “symbol” etc.) to the language of cooking instructions (“sauté,” “braise,” “roast,” “bake” etc.) and the connotation of words connected to food or eating, students in this class will acquire an enhanced vocabulary to discuss both literature and food.


Students will write the equivalent of two essays (1000-1200 words), keep a “food journal” in which they examine the power of food in their lives and reading and take at least two exams.  The exams will combine objective (factual, reading comprehension) questions as well as short essays.


The class will also include special projects involving the preparation of food (outside class), and each unit will include shared consumption of foods introduced or referred to in the text.  (Note:  Cooking is not a requirement for this class. Food can be prepared without cooking. Projects will take into account different abilities and access to cooking facilities. At its most basic, “food preparation” may be limited to intelligent shopping.)


The class will assume that all students have regular access to a computer and D2L.  Students with special dietary needs or who will be uncomfortable sharing food with classmates may want to take a different class.

More information will appear on D2L as the first day of classes comes closer.