Syllabus “Food Writing and Media” (2022)

This is the current syllabus for module “Food Writing and Media”, which I have been teaching every autumn since 2018 as part of the MA Gastronomy and Food Studies at the Technological University Dublin. It includes both the practical experience of different types of food writing with the critical study of published food writing and food in literature. (Timetable and content are subject to change.) Each weekly session is 3 hours long, split into 1 hour before lunch and 2 hours after. The Writing Workshops on Place, People and Writing Oneself as well as the Introductory Workshop take place over 2 hours; otherwise over one hour. In the workshops, we use writing exercises to write in class, and then share what we have written.

If you have questions about this syllabus, feel free to contact me!

Course Description

Writing about food has proliferated particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries, building on intellectual trends such as humanism, food anthropology, historical events such as the Enlightenment, Industrialisation, and Colonialism as well as changing societal and gender roles. Food writing ranges from objective, pragmatic, and information-focused to highly literary texts dealing with identity, culture, politics and morality. Common formats include journalism, memoirs, essays, travelogues, academic texts, and reference books as well as traditional literary formats such as poetry and fiction.

The module approaches the primary readings from a gastrocritical perspective. Gastrocriticism is a form of literary criticism focused on human relationships to each other and to the natural world through food. It is informed by the concepts and insights of gastronomical scholarship and food studies, pays particular attention to the role gastronomy plays in literary writing, and is based on the understanding that literature/writing and human behaviour around food and eating reflect and shape each other.

The module explores literary food writing and other popular modes by which the language of food is transmitted, namely film, social media and blogging, and is aimed at postgraduate students who wish to explore the techniques and aesthetic aspects of food writing and media as well as the intellectual and cultural contexts on both theoretical and practical levels. Active engagement with online scholarly debate and publishing hones the students’ digital and academic literacy.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, the learner will be able to

  1. Appraise the cultural and literary roots of food writing.
  2. Critique seminal works and authors and assess how they have shaped the field.
  3. Critically analyse different types of food art and media in terms of influence, cultural context, and affect.
  4. Synthesise the frameworks of food and language, writing and presenting, literature and cuisines, food and imagery.
  5. Create original creative food writing, applying best practices gleaned from experienced practitioners.
  6. Situate and justify the study of food writing in the wider context of Food Studies and Gastronomy.

Materials

 

Assessments

The module is assessed through three assessments (50%, 25% and 25% of the marks).

1. Coursework assignment (50%)

You will produce 4-5 pieces of critical discussion of the course readings (400-500 words each), of which the five best will make up your grade, at 10% each.  

The submission of these pieces is continuous as preparation for class, however, grading may be clustered at the end of the module; the final grade will automatically eliminate your weakest partial mark. 

Part of this assignment is to send 1-2 tweets per week, either a thought on the readings (can be a quote from your discussion piece) or a quote from the readings – preferably both. Your tweets will be used to prompt the in-class discussion, and will be taken into account for your grade for the weekly submission. Tweets must include the module hashtag #tudublinfoodwriting

2. Creative project (25%: 20% own project, 5% peer critique)

You will produce a 800-1000 words creative writing piece for publication on the TU Dublin Food Forum blog. It can either be in the style of a personal essay OR a memoir OR a travelogue OR a piece of criticism, always obviously involving food, AND yourself (poetry and other formats are also welcome). The process of this assignment is that you will submit a draft to your classmates for peer review/critique, and then submit the edited version of your piece for publication on the Food Forum blog. We will practice creative writing in workshop sessions throughout the semester.

In addition, each of you will critique the submissions of 4 of your classmates, with the view of helping everyone to hone their writing – and honing your own editing and critiquing skills. 

For submission deadlines, please refer to module calendar – you will be grouped into 5 groups and deadlines are arranged accordingly. 

3. Individual project (reflective) (25%)

You will submit a critical writing piece (1500-2000 words) that discusses one or more primary texts* or authors of [Irish] food writing, in the light of what we discuss throughout the course. Proper academic references and citations will be required.

*The texts may be book-length (in which case minimum is ONE), essay/long-form article length (in which case the minimum is TWO), or it may be short texts or poems, in which case it should be on 3-4 pieces, depending on the length. Please discuss your choice with me beforehand/ before the final lesson to ensure that you are focusing on an adequate amount of primary text. Submission deadline is [early January].

Course Timetable

Week 1
  1. Introduction to the module: Logistics, topics, assessments…
  2. Our favourite food writers/pieces of food writing Discussion: What is food writing? Does it have (to have) a certain form, content, style? What is NOT food writing? What is good writing?
    • Be prepared to talk about your favourite food writer and/or favourite piece of food writing. Identify one quote that particularly strikes you. Please bring at least one full sample text to class (article, poem, book chapter…).
Week 2
  1. Introduction to literary criticism: What is literature? How do we study – and assess – literary texts? What are typical elements of literary texts?
    • Readings:
      • Terry Eagleton (from How to Read Literature) ‘Ch 1: Openings’
      • Thomas De Quincey ‘Literature of Knowledge, Literature of Power’
  2. Introduction to literary criticism (2) Gastrocriticism: What is the general methodology of reading literature? What are different types of critical theories and approaches? What is gastrocriticism? How can gastrocriticism be practiced? (Please have your favourite food text from the first session with you again.)
    • Readings:
      • Anke Klitzing ‘”My Palate Hung with Starlight”: A Gastrocritical Reading of Seamus Heaney” https://doi.org/10.2478/ewcp-2019-0010
      • Anke Klitzing ‘”Gilded Gravel in the Bowl”: Ireland’s Cuisine and Culinary Heritage in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney’ https://doi.org/10.1080/04308778.2021.1957423
      • Anke Klitzing ‘New Beginnings in reading (Irish) Literature: A Gastrocritical Look at Moore’s “Homesickness” and Tóibín’s Brooklyn
Week 3
  1. How to critique literature: Discussion on critical exercise around four texts, to identify and hone literary criticism skills
    • Submit 400 words on following readings:
      • Lee Upton ‘Eating Our Way to Wisdom: M.F.K. Fisher’s Oysters’
      • M.F.K. Fisher ‘The First Oyster’
      • Seamus Heaney ‘Oysters’
      • Anton Chekhov ‘Oysters’
  2. Introductory Writing Workshop: A practical creative writing workshop. We will do some writing in class and discuss critiquing and feedback. Bring your favourite writing tools, pen/paper or computer…
    • Readings (supplemental):
      • Dianne Jacob (from Will Write for Food) ‘The Gastronomical You’
      • William Zinsser (from On Writing Well) ‘Clutter’, ‘Simplicity’, ‘Style’, ‘Words’
Week 4
  1. Writing workshop: How to write … place
    • Reading (supplemental):
      • William Zinsser (from On Writing Well) ‘Writing About Places’
  2. The Travelogue: The Inner and Outer Journey, the Exotic and the Flaneur
    • Submit 400 words on following readings: EITHER domestic
      • James Cowan ‘The Flaneur’
      • Angela Carter ‘The Donnie Ferrets’
      • Marcella Hazan ‘In My Market’

      OR foreign

      • Alan de Botton ‘On the Exotic’
      • Julia Child ‘Sole Meunière’
      • Calvin Trillin ‘Gelati Fever’
      • Peter Hessler ‘from A Rat in My Soup
Week 5
  1. Writing workshop: How to write … people
    • Reading (supplemental):
      • William Zinsser (from On Writing Well) ‘Writing About Yourself – The Memoir’
  2. The (Culinary) Memoir: Family relationships around food
    • Please read the following three primary readings (Frank, Reichl, Slater) as well as Dianne Jacob’s chapter on the craft of memoir writing. In your critical piece, please reflect on the themes of family, relationships and conflicts played out around and through food.
      • Dianne Jacob (from Will Write for Food) ‘Crafting Memoir and Nonfiction’
      • Ruth Reichl ‘The Queen of Mold’
      • Nigel Slater – excerpts from Toast
      • Matthew Gavin Frank ‘James Earl Jones Eats Whoopie Pie’
Week 6
  1. Writing workshop: How to write … oneself
    • Readings (supplemental):
      • Lad Tobin ‘The Third I: Character, Narrator, Author in the Personal Narrative’
      • Phillip Lopate ‘On the Necessity of Turning Oneself into a Character’
  2. The Essay: What is an essay? What is a personal essay?
    • Please read the following three primary readings (Benjamin, Steingarten, Fisher) as well as Phillip Lopate’s introduction to his anthology The Art of the Personal Essay. In your critical piece, please discuss the three primary readings in light of Lopate’s discussion of the essay.
      • Phillip Lopate ‘Introduction to The Art of the Essay‘ please read pp. xxiii-li
      • Walter Benjamin ‘Fresh Figs (from Eating)’
      • Jeffrey Steingarten ‘My Food Phobias’ 6p
      • M.F.K. Fisher ‘J is for Juvenile Dining’ 4p
Week 7
  1. Writing workshop: How to … edit
    • Readings (supplemental):
      • Rick Moody ‘A Guide to Revision’
      • Chuck Palahniuk ‘Nuts and Bolts – Essay on Style’
  2. Reviews and Criticism: Anatomy and purpose of (restaurant) criticism
  3. GROUP 1 to submit creative writing drafts!
Week 8
  1. Writing workshop: GROUP 4 to critique GROUP 1
  2. Virtuous Eating in Food Writing: The literary trope of virtuous eating, writing on farming, utopia
    • Please read the chapter by Tigner and Carruth (from their Literature and Food Studies). Reflect on their arguments using (a) text(s) of your choice as an example – you could use the articles by Pollan or Berry provided below, other texts from Eating Words or any other primary texts that you may think illustrate the idea. (It should be primary texts, so journalistic articles, or essays, memoirs, other narrative texts – not other academic texts.)
      • Mandatory Reading:
        • Amy Tigner and Allison Carruth ‘Virtuous Eating: Utopian Farms and Dietary Treatises’
      • Supplemental Reading:
        • Louisa May Alcott ‘from Transcendental Wild Oats’ (in Eating Words)
        • Michael Pollan ‘Sustaining Vision
        • Wendell Berry ‘The Pleasures of Eating’
  3. Group 2 to submit creative writing drafts!
Week 9
  1. Writing workshop: GROUP 5 to critique GROUP 2
  2. Food and the Irish Short Story Imagination What does a gastrocritical reading tell us about Irish Short Stories?
    • Please read my paper on food in Irish short stories; then analyse the story by McLaughlin using the Gastrocritical Reading Questions.
      • Anke Klitzing ‘Food and the Irish Short Story Imagination’
      • Danielle McLaughlin ‘Those That I Fight I Do Not Hate’
    • Supplemental Reading (short stories)
      • Rosa Mulholland ‘The Hungry Death’
      • Daniel Corkery ‘The Awakening’
      • Emma Cooke ‘A Family Occasion’
      • Maeve Binchy ‘Holland Park’
      • Éilis Ní Dhuibhne ‘A Literary Lunch’
  3. Group 3 to submit creative writing drafts
Week 10
  1. Writing workshop: GROUP 1 to critique GROUP 3
  2. Food and language, food and writing How do language and food intersect and interact? Can they be said to be similar?
    • Please read the following readings and reflect on them. Please note: neither of the readings are primary readings (stories).
      • Terry Eagleton ‘Edible Ecriture’
      • Betty Fussell ‘Eating My Words’
      • Paul Schmidt ‘A Winter Feast
  3. Group 4 to submit creative writing drafts!
Week 11
  1. Writing workshop: GROUP 2 to critique GROUP 4
  2. Food and memory How can food be both a trigger and a keeper of memories?
    • Please read the following readings and reflect on the topic of food and memory:
      • Lisa Heldke ‘My Dead Father’s Raspberry Patch, My Dead Mother’s Piecrust’
      • Cara De Silva ‘from In Memory’s Kitchen
      • Marcel Proust ‘On the Madeleine’
      • Primo Levi ‘The Last Christmas of the War’
      • Jhumpa Lahiri ‘Indian Takeout’
  3. Group 5 to submit creative writing drafts!
Week 12
  1. Workshop: GROUP 3 to critique GROUP 5
  2. Getting published – on pitching and publishing, media or academic
  3. Conclusion, Wrap-Up

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