This is most recent syllabus. Your final syllabus will be given during your first day of class
- This course will be a three credit course beginning in Spring 2020.
What can food history teach us about contemporary culture?
What can food history teach us about contemporary culture? In this course, we will explore the history of food in Italy as a gateway to understanding present Italian culture. By examining the factors that have shaped Italian food, cuisine, and taste, the variations in eating habits of different socio-economic classes, and the essential role played by food in constructing Italian identities, we will shed light on fundamental patterns in Italian history and society.
This exploration will lead us to consider processes of social and cultural exchange, political and religious influence, and economic and scientific development. Through a mix of discussions, readings, primary source analyses, workshops, projects, and field trips we will investigate Italian food and culture from Antiquity to the present. After the completion of this course, students will have acquired a specific set of historical skills as a result of having developed a critical understanding of food history, an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Italian culture and society, and a framework for analyzing Italian history.
This course very intentionally engages with Italian food in the present. Topics include nation and gender, the foodways of recent immigrants to Italy, alternative food systems and food justice in Italy, and climate change’s effect on Italian cuisine.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
- identify some changes in how Italians have eaten over the last three millennia;
- summarize connections between Umbria’s culinary past and larger themes in Italian and world history, with particular attention to the implications of race, gender & sexuality, religious faith, and class;
- distinguish between primary and secondary sources;
- analyze different kinds of primary sources—texts, objects, and images—for their meaning;
- integrate primary and secondary sources on the environmental, sociocultural, and economic factors in Italian food history into an argument;
- generate a “usable past”: build a community-engaged archive and communicate your research about various aspects of contemporary food systems using twenty-first-century tools while practicing systematic, ethical, and public-facing scholarship.
Mandatory course reader
- You will take a day trip to Florence to visit a market, take part in a historical cooking class, and explore an ancient pharmacy to learn about medicinal characteristics of food.
Community Archiving Project
As part of this course, you will contribute to one of the Umbra Institute’s long-term academic endeavors, the Urban Food Mapping & Community Archiving Project. As we talk about how historians make arguments in narrative form from primary and secondary sources, we will pay close attention to the archives that historians use. Food was for a long time seen as unworthy of historians attention. By collecting menus from local restaurants—food trucks, fast casual joints, everyday eateries, and Perugia’s finest restaurants—you will (in a small way) actively seek to rectify archival. The material you collect will then be available both online and in a special archive that Perugia’s Augusta Library has created for us. These materials will become part of Perugia and Umbria’s cultural patrimony and will provide English and Italian primary sources for future food historians.