Spring 2005
Fully Enrolled

GNEL 616
Culture and Cuisine: Food in Society and Popular Culture

Finn,John E.

02/10/2005 - 05/05/2005
Thursday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 422

In this course, we will use cuisine as a way of understanding American popular culture. In a broad sense, the culture of food includes such things as the social institution of the restaurant and social practices of dining, the development of home economics and culinary professionalism, cookbooks and food writers (including MFK Fisher, Calvin Trillin, the Sterns, Paula Wolfert, and John Thorne) as a distinctive literary genre, attitudes and beliefs about health and diet, and many other things. Its breadth and centrality to daily life makes cuisine an especially useful way of understanding popular culture and society. In the words of anthropologists Peter Farb and George Armelagos, when we find out "where, when and with whom... food is eaten, just about everything else can be inferred about the relations among the society's members." Food fashions and trends, for example, reflect larger social inclinations and changing understandings about such things as ethnic diversity. The role of women in society and at home, and assorted philosophies about health, diet (witness fear of food) and religion.

Among the particular topics we shall consider will be how cuisine reflects--and perhaps promotes--ethnic diversity and pluralism. Likewise, we will explore how notions of haute cuisine and regional cuisines contribute to social stratification and geographic identity. In addition, we will want to use the concept of cuisine as a way of understanding changing gender and class roles in the United States. Finally, we will always be concerned with an overarching question: Is there an "American" cuisine? I suspect we will find that this question is just another way of asking: What is America? We shall see that processes of inclusion and exclusion, central to our collective and self-identity, lie at the heart of changing definitions of America and "American" food.

Some of our readings are standard academic fare. But because our concern is with popular culture, our exploration will also range across a wide variety of materials that comprise cultural expression, including letters, diaries and autobiographies, readings in popular journals and newspapers, cookbooks and recipes, and films.

Readings will include: Fine, KITCHENS; Klein, EAT FAT; Ruhlman, MAKING OF A CHEF; Inness, COOKING LESSONS: POLITICS OF GENDER AND FOOD; Counihan, ed., FOOD AND CULTURE; Mintz, TASTING FOOD, TASTING FREEDOM; Schlosser, FAST FOOD NATION; Nestle, FOOD POLITICS; Bentley, EATING FOR VICTORY; Ginsberg, WAITING.

Assignments include three short essays on weekly readings, a short analytical essay on one of three films viewed during the term, and a final project to be chosen in consultation with the instructor.

SCHEDULE NOTE: This course will meet for ten class sessions, three hours each, beginning Thursday, February 10. Class will not meet during spring break.

This course may, by petition, count toward the Social Sciences concentration.


John Finn (B.A. Nasson College; J.D. Georgetown University; M.A., Ph.D Princeton University; Grande Diplome, French Culinary Institute) is professor of government. He is coauthor, with Kommers and Jacobsohn, of American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases and Comparative Notes (Rowman, 2004); co-author with Donald P. Kommers of American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes (West/Wadsworth 1998), and is author of Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law (Oxford University Press, 1991). Click here for more information about John Finn.


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Carol Counihan, FOOD AND CULTURE (Routledge), Paperback

Gary Fine, KITCHENS: THE CULTURE OF RESTAURANT WORK (University of California Press), Paperback

Sherrie Inness, COOKING LESSONS (Rowman and Littlefield), Paperback

Sidney Mintz, TASTING FOOD, TASTING FREEDOM (Beacon Press), Paperback

Alison Owings, HEY WAITRESS (University of California Press), Paperback

Michael Ruhlman, THE MAKING OF A CHEF (Owl Books), Paperback

Eric Schlosser, FAST FOOD NATION (Perennial), Paperback

READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323

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