English 9185B

Early Modern Food from Shakespeare to Milton

Instructor: Professor M. Bassnett
Winter Half Course.

Food is part of our everyday lives, but how do representations of food and food practices in literature illuminate political, cultural, social, and ecological attitudes, choices, practices, and relationships? This class opens up the rich and expansive field of food studies through the lens of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We’ll take a new look at familiar texts, such as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, with its final scene of unwitting cannibalism, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, with its depiction of a world destroyed by an act of eating. But we’ll also consider lesser-known material, such as Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies, in which death is likened to a cook, and Thomas Deloney’s Jack of Newbury, in which hospitality and commensality are central to a weaver’s rise to fame. We’ll also examine the recipe book—a genre central to early modern food studies—to discuss theories and practices of cookery; we’ll try our hands at historical cooking; and we’ll dive into archival research at the Western Archives.

Course outline/syllabus: English 9185B. PDF download