120: Special Topics in Italian Studies: Italy and Food

MWF 3-4 | 182 Dwinelle | Instructor: Danielle Callegari

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

Taught in English with readings in English.

The idea of Italy is inextricably tied to great food and Italians are known the world over for their excellent cooking and love of eating, rooted in a recognizable gastronomic canon and iconic exports: chianti, pizza, gelato. Yet, what precisely makes food so important to “Italianità”? To understand why Italian consciousness within and beyond the peninsula roots itself in gastronomy, our course will train a serious critical lens on the world of Italian food, re-constructing Italian history and culture as we de-construct the Italian meal, trying to find within it the seeds of an imagined community and a political reality. Our goal will be to answer questions such as: what makes a national identity and what makes a national cuisine?; how is food wielded as a tool of political power?; what makes food important to Italy and Italians specifically, when compared with other European nations and ethnic identities?; how has Italian cuisine changed from the birth of the Italian vernacular (in the late Middle Ages) to the unification of the Italian nation state (late 19th century) to today? To answer these questions we will investigate sources as diverse as the lineage of Italian cookbooks, written and visual representations of Italian food and eating, and models of ancient and modern dining spaces and rituals, among others.


In addition to preparing all required readings in advance of lecture and participating energetically in class discussions, students will have in-class written midterm and final exams.

Required Texts:

Capatti, Alberto and Massimo Montanari. Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History. Translated by Aine O’Healy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. [Paperback and e-book versions    available; ISBN-10: 0231122322, ISBN-13: 978-0231122320]

All further texts and materials will be provided in digital format.

Prerequisites: None.