The idea of Italy is inextricably tied to great food and wine, and Italians are known the world
over for their excellent cooking and love of eating, recognizable in their 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 in 1861 to
today? To answer these questions we will investigate sources ranging from the lineage of Italian
cookbooks, to textual and visual representations of Italian food and eating, to models of ancient
and modern dining spaces and rituals, and more.
Preparation & Expectations:
Students should be prepared to read, listen to or watch approximately 6-7 selections from
primary and critical sources each week. In addition to preparing all required materials in advance
of lecture and participating enthusiastically in class, students will take a written, in-class exam at
the conclusion of each unit of study. Each student will also select a food item or technology to
research individually during the course of the semester, for which the student will present a final
product (creative options are available in addition to traditional final papers).
Attendance and participation 20%
Food Research Assignment 30%
All texts and materials will be provided in digital format.