Course Description

Like language, food traverses national borders, transforms itself in transit, and reinvents itself over time.  Also like language, its social importance is often obscured by its very ubiquity. On a basic biological level, food certainly determines “if” we are. But socially, it often declares “who,” “where,” and “what” we are as well.   And, every ingredient we consume is the result of a number of choices—conscious or not—that contain very real political, economic and environmental concerns.  In this writing course, our task is to denaturalize this omnipresence of food and investigate its connection to language through the study and practice of various genres of food writing. We will examine the science of food not only at a cellular level, but in the kitchen and on our palates as well. And finally, in a nation of excess, we will consider the implications of food’s absence. Through careful analysis, extensive research, and a lot of writing, we will attempt to uncover our own relationship with food, learn to articulate the basic trends in food studies, and identify, practice, and improve upon different writing styles.

Rationale for Assignment Sequence

After reading a number of essays within a particular genre of food writing, students will begin by writing a narrative essay in this genre.  As a foundation for the more complex assignments to follow, the first will give them practice creating a narrative arc, writing with focus, and using detailed evidence.  Next, students will research and analyze the history of processed food ingredients, using evidence to support an arguable thesis.  For the third assignment students are asked to take a position in a debate about an aspect of Michael Pollan’s argument, in dialog with other sources.  They will continue to practice building a strong evidence-based argument, but will also have to address counterargument and critically evaluate the type and quality of evidence being used in their sources.  The final assignment builds on the writing and reading skills students have been developing throughout the semester.  They must engage with scholarly sources to develop an analytical argument, using original research on a topic of their choice.

The materials and description for this course were revised in 2012.

Course Documents

Previous versions of the syllabus:

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