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Bloomsbury Food Library Lesson Plans

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Lesson plan

Discipline:

Psychology of Food

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Global Literatures and Food

Global Literatures and Food
DOI: 10.5040/9781474208802.0001

  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Identifier:
    b-9781474208802-01
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Introduction

The methods and imperatives of literary studies and food studies blend in the unit “Literature and Food.” Through this ten-module plan, students read canonical, keystone literary texts. In addition to these literary texts, each module includes essays and chapters to facilitate critical thinking about the interdisciplinary potential between food studies and literary studies.

This unit encourages three major learning outcomes:

  • 1) Comprehension: students gain expertise in the broad field of literary studies, and how food studies provides tools for understanding that body of writing.

  • 2) Connection: students develop critical thinking skills with which to make interdisciplinary connections that they will be able to extend to other research and scholarship.

  • 3) Synthesis: students learn to recognize sites in literature and food studies wherein the two overlap. This learning outcome is encouraged by the juxtaposition of food studies texts and literary texts both within each lesson and between the lessons as a whole module.

In the first unit, “Early Poetics & Readings of Food,” students read The Pillow Book, one of the earliest literary texts, and Roland Barthes’s Mythologies, a keystone text in literary theory that engages food studies. The juxtaposition allows food writing to be the organizational principle for the undertaking of a survey in transhistorical and multithematic literature. From there, they move to “Utopia, Ethical Eating and Ethical Labor.” The third unit “In Defense of Food Poetry” combines Sir Phillip Sidney’s In Defense of Poesy, Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and Neruda’s food poetry.

In unit four, “Frankenfoods,” students read Frankenstein and contemporary food writing that allows a critical discussion about so-called frankenfoods. Following that, the unit “Animal Farm: Food, Politics, and Gender” introduces students to Animal Farm, and the role of food, politics, and gender in satire. Unit six, “Consider a Lobster of One’s Own,” juxtaposes Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, MFK Fisher’s Consider the Oyster, and David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster. The next unit “Place and Colonial Food” reads Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place and text about the post-colonial politics of food. The last unit, “Beloved: Food Is Not Always Love,” pairs Toni Morrison’s Beloved with Roxane Gay’s Hunger.

Unit Outline

This ten-module lesson plan is intended for use throughout a semester. The content is aimed toward upper-level undergraduates or graduate students in food studies, with interdisciplinary focuses (cultural studies, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and so forth). This plan holds the premise that students have taken a prior literary course before (that this would not be their first encounter with literature).

As with any survey of literature course, it is a challenge to represent all voices, traditions, genres, and historical/cultural contexts. This is a Global Literature approach that can be modified as an instructor sees fit.

Assigned readings and suggested discussion questions provide an understanding of the ideas to be discussed in class. These questions can also structure/scaffold homework or larger assignments. These are ways one could begin class discussion, or instructors could ask students to prepare their own discussion questions.

Lesson 1

Early Poetics & Readings of Food: From Japan (996 AD) to France (1957)

Core texts to be read before the lesson

The Pillow Book (any edition)

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies (any edition)

Ishige, Naomichi. “Japan” in The Cambridge World History of Food by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, Cambridge University Press, 2000, https://www.bloomsburyfoodlibrary.com/encyclopedia-chapter?docid=b-9781474208710&tocid=b-9781474208710-icm00000c120&st=japan

Discussion questions

The Pillow Book is unique in that scholars still debate whether it should be considered a diary, an early novel, or a long-form poem. Either way, the lists it holds are relevant to the poetic forms of the time. Many vignettes ([39], [126]) explain the role of food in the poetry of everyday life. What other passages did you note where food holds significance?

Mythologies is one of the earlier pieces of literary theory that “reads” food using the same methods we can “read” other cultural objects, like books or plays. Explain how food is read (in a chapter like “Operation Margarine”).

While both texts come from different cultures, and literary traditions, both take food as an object worthy of examination in life. What are some similarities in their food philosophies? And differences within those similarities?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* (*see more on homework assessment on this) that uses Barthes’s method to identify and interpret a commonplace food myth.

Lesson 2

Utopia, Ethical Eating and Ethical Labor: England (1518)

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Moore, Thomas. Utopia (any edition)

Parasecoli, Fabio. “World Developments: The Early Modern Age” in A Cultural History of Food in the Early Modern Age, Volume 4 by Beat Kümin, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350044548-ch-010

Jackson, Peter. “Class” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-016

Discussion questions

In Book II of Utopia, the food system is discussed. What is the relationship between pleasures of the mind and the food system?

Food labor and production is left to slaves. What are the similarities/differences in the food system in this text when compared with terms such as “class” and “work” (as defined in Food Words)?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* that explains the unseen work in sustaining a food item/institution in food culture.

Lesson 3

In Defense of Food Poetry: 1890–2009

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Sidney, Sir Philip. The Defense of Poesy: Otherwise Known as an Apology for Poetry (1890) (any edition)

Neruda, Pablo. Odes to Common Things (any edition)

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food (2009) (any edition)

Milne, Richard. “Risk” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-050

Discussion questions

Both authors argue in defense of something—either literature or food. What are the reasons each text makes for a defense? What are similarities/differences between the methods they present for protection?

How might Sidney and/or Pollan respond to Neruda’s poetry? Would they think he is protecting poetry and food alike?

Homework

Write a short poem (100 words) that argues for a food item that you personally find essential to life. In addition, write a 300-word reflection describing the choices you made in your poem.

Lesson 4

Frankenfoods

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein (any edition)

Adams, Carol. “Frankenstein’s Vegetarian Monster” in The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781501312861.ch-006

Lee, Richard. “Technologies” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-060

Discussion questions

Adams makes the case for vegetarianism being a fundamental lens for reading Frankenstein. How might we also apply this methodology to Utopia (from unit 2)?

Frankenstein is often used to mark the beginning of the sci-fi genre of literature. How does Lee’s sense of technology (and maybe more specifically food science technology) function as either a plot device or character in this text?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* that critiques the benefits and problems with comparing GMOs to Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.

Lesson 5

Animal Farm: Food, Politics, and Gender

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Orwell, George. Animal Farm (any edition)

Adams, Carol. “The Patriarchal Texts of Meat,” “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” “The Rape of Animals, the Butchering of Women ,” “Masked Violence, Muted Voices,” and “The Word Made Flesh” in The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781501312861

Jackson, Peter & Richard Milne. “Farming” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-026

Discussion questions

In the satire, Animal Farm, farming and meat-eating are a couple of the many cultural systems that are subject to critique. What else is the object of critique here?

Would this hypothetical, and hyperbolic, rebellion be possible in today’s Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs) farming systems? What might be the same/different?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* critiquing a part of the food-production system from the point of view of either a food item made from an animal (like cheese) or an animal raised for food (like farmed salmon).

Lesson 6

Consider a Lobster of One’s Own

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own (1929) (any edition)

Fisher, MFK. Consider the Oyster (1941) (any edition)

Wallace, David Foster. Consider the Lobster (2004) (any edition/source)

Meah, Angela. “Gender” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-029

Discussion questions

What is the relationship between eating and having “a room of one’s own” in Woolf’s text?

Fisher’s text combines literary aesthetics with recipes. In what ways does this shape/change the trajectory of the argument within the writing?

When we compare Consider the Oyster with Consider the Lobster, what are the philosophies for consideration used by the authors?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* that uses a recipe as part of its narrative structure.

Lesson 7

Place and Colonial Food

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place (1988) (any edition)

Coles, Ben. “Space and Place” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-057

Discussion questions

What passages in A Small Place illustrate how food has shaped place?

Moreover, what is the relationship between food and creating a colonial place?

Homework

Write a 500-word response* about a place you know very well, and the role of food in its culture.

Lesson 8

Beloved : Food Is Not Always Love

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Morrison, Toni. Beloved (1998) (any edition)

Gay, Roxane. Hunger (2017) (any edition)

Brembeck, Helene. “Body” in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-012

Discussion questions

The threat to sovereignty over one’s body (as well as the cultural ideas of racialized, gendered, un/healthy bodies) is a common theme in both Beloved and Hunger. Describe the way each text deals with bodily sovereignty.

Animal Farm (lesson 5) uses satire to critique culture, while Kincaid’s polemic or Gay’s Hunger takes a more direct critical approach. Describe critical benefits of multiple aesthetic approaches (Sidney’s text from lesson 3 may be helpful).

Homework

Write a 500-word response* using a major theme from a prior lesson as a lens for food in Beloved.

Assessment Options

For assessment of homework, reflective assignments allow instructors to gauge if learning outcomes (comprehension, connection, and synthesis) are being met both within each lesson and between the lessons. Grading these as low-stake assignments (in a check/check minus system) writing decreases intimidation in writing for students who may not be very familiar in writing about literature.

A mix of creative and traditional-essay work is a pedagogical practice in literary classrooms. Students learn to analyze creative work more fully when they simultaneously explore creative aesthetics. Short homework assignments could be essays, or modified to include blog posts, discussion threads (through an online course management system), or podcasts. For more on blogging, see “Blogging: Digital Leisure and Material Media Production” by Isabelle De Solier (in Food History: Critical and Primary Sources, Volume 4: Contemporary Transitions, edited by Jeffrey L. Pilcher, Bloomsbury Food Library 2017, DOI: 10.5040/9781474220156.ch-016).

For high-stake assignments (larger papers or projects), an instructor could include two to three major projects where students combine their unique educational goals with the information and methodologies developed here. Any discussion prompt or homework assignment could be modified into a larger assignment. In addition, assignments where students take on leadership positions (e.g., leading class discussions, debates, or presentations) encourage them to cultivate a sense of expertise with this knowledge. For assignments such as these, peer review is a strong way to assess the work (e.g., students fill out short evaluations for the individual/group presentation).

Further Reading

E-books in the Bloomsbury Food Library

  • The following selections in Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture by Peter Jackson and Foreword by Warren J. Belasco, Bloomsbury Food Library, 2017. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-007

    • “Aesthetics”

    • “Moral Economy”

    • “Work”

    • “Security”

    • “Exotic”

    • “Authenticity”