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FSST/HIST/SOC 350: The History and Culture of Food in Italy

Course Description
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, source analyses, workshops, projects, and a field trip 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.

Course Objectives
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 social constructions of identity, class, gender, and race;
  • 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.

Course Materials
Mandatory course reader

Course Fee
$55.00 – Includes mandatory academic excursions and in-class tastings