Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
Course Descriptions
Food for Thought

Dr. Cynthia Grant Tucker
cgtucker@memphis.edu

Character and relationships are often expressed in terms of food: Shakespeare spoke of the charitable who were filled with the milk of human kindness. People who fit this description have been known as sweetie pies. The language of food also captures our human habits, as witness our world’s couch potatoes. Morsels of wisdom are often served up: If you’re in the soup, do your best not to stew. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. Our rhetorical engagement with food is hardly accidental. The elements of the meal have always had sacred and secular meanings, symbolic and literal, that go to the belly of what it means to be human.

So it is that authors since Homer, Plato, and Dante have used this language to explore the human condition. Some have satirized the gluttony of the social elite; or articulated the relationships between those who serve and prepare a meal and those who partake of it; or to celebrate the triumphant human encounter with a hostile world, as in the case of a Seder , Communion, or festival. While the cultivation, harvesting, and preparing of food provide a syntax for customs and values that bind us as communities, the power of food to call forth distant and deeply embedded memories has also made it a natural vehicle for psychological narrative. This course will explore this theme from aesthetic, historic, and cultural vantage points.

TEXTS (tentative, so check with professor before you purchase these titles):

  • Camus. Exile & The Kingdom: Stories: ISBN 9780307278586

  • Colette. Gigi and The Cat: ISBN  9780140183191

  • Dinesen. Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny: ISBN 0141184639

  • Homer. The Odyssey (Rieu translation): ISBN 9780141449112

  • Kafka. The Transformation and Other Stories: ISBN 9780140184785

  • Maupassant. Boule de Suif and Other Stories: ISBN 9780140448122

  • Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway: ISBN 9780156628709                                                                   

  Additional readings distributed in class. 

ASSIGNMENTS AND WRITTEN WORK: Students will write three critical essays, one of them being the final exam.  From time to time, there will also be short-essay quizzes in class.

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Last Updated: 3/6/12