Literature and Culture of Food

The way we eat (Studies in Literature and Popular Culture)

On Food Revolution, Jaime Oliver, a British chef, shows American television viewers the challenges of food production and consumption in our school cafeterias. Oliver reveals the deeply entrenched political codes surrounding food and health in American culture. His task, to educate the American public on our miscued ideology of food, is an enormous undertaking as he challenges deeply entrenched cultural norms from table manners to the politics of the American food industry.  Can Oliver succeed, helping us re-vision our food habits?

In American culture, fast food has a long history.  Early colonizers prepared food quickly, ate hastily and demanded convenience.  In addition, as in all cultural groups, food traditions are deeply encoded with social and moral meaning. As a result, in American literature, eating signifies and legitimizes a sense of self, distinguishing us from others who practice different foodways.  Historically, in our country, food has been utilized to regulate and control physical and intellectual nourishment. In this class, we will study the literary, social and cultural history of America (in fiction, non-fiction, essays and memoirs) in relationship to food in order to understand the ways in which food has functioned as a celebration and an agent of cultural identification and oppression.


Attendance is mandatory. In English 481(W) while there may be a few lectures, students are expected to be prepared with reading group notes each class period and to actively contribute to class discussion. Students will work in groups of four to five and take turns leading the discussions. Over the semester, each student is required to lead four discussions. If you are absent, clearly you will be missed.
Because this class is designated writing intensive, students will write four—two page reader responses that make connections between the text, the criticism and self.  These will be posted on Laulima at least 24 hours before class.  All members of the class need to check Laulima or their email to read the discussion leaders responses before class.  We will discuss logistics on the first day of class.

In addition, students will write one short essay and one research paper.  For both of these essays drafts are expected as well as working in peer groups for feedback and with your professor in conferences. In addition, there will be informal writing assignments and in-class writing.

Students will give one short presentation that will enhance our reading and one longer presentation on the final project.


  • FOOD AND CULTURE: A READER, SECOND EDITION edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik
  • HOW TO COOK A WOLF by MFK Fisher
  • THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker
  • THE BOOK OF SALT by Monique Truong
  • FAST FOOD NATION by Eric Schlosser
  • IN DEFENSE OF FOOD by Michael Pollan

All books will be available at Revolution Books. A reader will be required as well.  Before the semester begins, I will email registered students as to where to pick up the reader.


  • Two short essays
  • one research essay
  • two oral presentations
  • response papers.