English & Writing StudiesWestern Arts and Humanities

English 9123 ~ Food Studies in the Renaissance

Professor Madeline Bassnett

Summer 2015, Full Course

Today, food communicates ethical, cultural, and spiritual identities, reveals political attitudes, and inspires emotions of both pleasure and anxiety. But we aren’t the first to be obsessed by food; early moderns were equally concerned about food fashions and practices such as hospitality, gift-giving, and cooking. In this course, we’ll be looking at an eclectic range of non-dramatic texts including: Ben Jonson’s hospitable poem, “Inviting a Friend to Supper”; Elizabeth Clinton’s pamphlet advocating maternal breast-feeding; travel narratives documenting the “diplomatic” role of food between the English and indigenous peoples; Anna Trapnel’s civil war pamphlet linking food refusal to prophecy; and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which a world is destroyed by the act of eating. We will also look at early modern recipe books and engage in the theory and practice of cooking. The relatively new field of food studies in the Renaissance is ripe—to paraphrase Francis Bacon—for tasting and swallowing, chewing and digesting.