Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
"What people do with food is an act that reveals how they construe the world."
- Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook
If you are what you eat, what are you? Food is at once the stuff of life and a potent symbol; it binds us to the earth, to our families, and to our cultures. The aroma of turkey roasting or the taste of green tea can be a portal to memories, while too many Big Macs can clog our arteries. The chef is an artist, yet those who pick oranges or process meat may be little more than slaves. In this class, we explore many of the fascinating issues that surround food as both material fact and personal and cultural symbol. We read non-fiction works by Toni Morrison, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry and others on such topics as family meals, food's ability to awaken us to "our own powers of enjoyment" (M. F. K. Fisher), and eating as an "agricultural act" (Berry). We also read Michael Pollan's best-selling In Defense of Food and discuss the issues this book raises as well as the rhetorical strategies it employs. Assigned essays will grow out of personal experience and the texts we read, and will include narratives, analytical essays, and essays that depend on research. Revision of essays and workshop review of writing in progress are an important part of the course.
Course Overview and Class Policies
Objectives and Assignments
The primary work of this class is:
- To develop your skills in writing and speaking clearly and effectively;
- To help you become aware of your own purposes as writers; and
- To help you become aware of the audience(s) you are writing for.
You'll write and revise four essays in addition to several short non-revised homework assignments. Each student will also make one oral presentation. Readings will serve to get you thinking and provide models of good writing; they'll provide inspiration for your essays and discussion points for Essay 2. Here are the major writing assignments for the course.
Essay 1 (3-4 pages) will grow out of your own memories connected with food. Essay 1 gives you practice in developing ideas based on your own experience and heightening your awareness of the audience(s) you write for.
Essay 2 (5 pages) will ask you to analyze and reflect on ideas from In Defense of Food and at least one additional reading, developing your own idea as you do so. Essay 2 gives you practice developing an argument and working with other writers' ideas.
Essay 3 (10 pages) is a research essay focusing on a topic of your choice from a list I will provide. It gives you the opportunity to develop your investigative and critical skills and your ability to organize a longer essay, along with practice using sources responsibly.
Essay 4 (2-3 pages) will be either a final reflection or a manifesto.
Homework will include some short (≈ 1 page) writing assignments:
- Responses to readings, based on prompts I will provide.
- A few reflections on your own experience with food.
- A vocabulary list, including etymologies and definitions.
We'll also do some writing in class to prepare for essays and check reading comprehension.
At our last class meeting, I'll collect a portfolio of all your written work for our class.
This class everyone will either give a 10-minute presentation on a food-related topic or participate in a debate on the thesis of In Defense of Food.
Please note that class discussions are part of the oral work of a communications-intensive class. All students are expected to participate in class discussions. Discussion should demonstrate not just familiarity with assigned readings but also critical thought.
This class is structured more like a workshop or seminar than a lecture class. Therefore, attendance is important: your responsibility in the class is not only to be a writer, but also to read and respond to classmates' work and to participate in discussions.
It is discourteous to your classmates and to your professor. If you are 10 minutes late three times it will count as an absence.
To participate in class discussions, you must read assignments on time. It is also imperative that you hand in drafts on time, post drafts to workshop partners on time, and come to class prepared for workshops and for oral presentations. Due dates for all drafts are listed on the course syllabus. Portfolios are due at our last class meeting.
I'll give you evaluative comments on all essay drafts, guiding you toward effective revision. I will give you a letter grade for the second draft of each essay; by re-revising that essay, you may earn a higher grade. Homework assignments, quizzes and oral presentations will be graded on a scale of 5. All written work is to be handed in to me in a portfolio.
The quality of your writing will be the primary criterion for your semester grade. I'll also take into consideration effort and improvement, especially as demonstrated by revision. We will consult on your progress mid-term. You may also request a meeting with me any time you have questions about your progress in the class.
- All required work must be completed satisfactorily for you to receive a passing grade for the course.
- A final grade of C or better satisfies the Communication Intensive requirement for freshmen.
Because it's often more efficient and effective for us to have a conversation about your writing than to communicate via comments on papers, conferences are an important part of our work together. Bring specific questions about your writing, such as how to make an introduction more vivid or how to connect the ideas in your essay. You are also welcome to use conference time to continue discussions begun in class or try out ideas sparked by your reading.
In addition to meeting with me, you may be required to make one or more appointments with a tutor at the Writing Center this semester.
MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism
Plagiarism—use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.
|SES #||TOPICS||KEY DATES|
Introductions and course overview
Food and sense memory (Madhur Jaffrey)
Homework 1 due
Letter to me
Voice, sensibility, audience
Writing: a food memory
|Homework 2 due|
Food, family and culture
What makes good writing?
|Homework 3 due|
Social meanings of food and meals
|Homework 4 due|
Etiquette and ethics
Elements of the essay
Prepare for Essay 1 workshop
|Essay 1 (Due on-line plus hard copy in class due on Ses #6)|
Workshop on Essay 1: 3 writers
Prepare for Essay 1 workshop and respond to group members
|Homework 6 due|
Workshop on Essay 1: 3 writers
Revise Essay 1 (due on Ses #8 in class)
Writing: mindfulness Exercise 1
|Homework 7 due|
Eating and pleasure: Stacey and Pollan
Writing: Précis of Berry's "Pleasures of Eating."
|Homework 8 due|
Eating as an agricultural act: Pollan and Berry
Summarizing writers' ideas; defining terms
FFN: taste, pleasure and industrial food
Writing: mindfulness exercise 2
|Homework 9 due|
Discuss In Defense of Food, part 1
Figuring out a writer's aims and methods
|Homework 10 due|
Discuss In Defense of Food, part 2
Making a case: Rhetoric, evidence and argument
|Homework 11 due|
Discuss In Defense of Food, part 3
The personal and the political
Looking ahead to Essay 2
|Proposal for Essay 2 due 1 day later|
Prepare oral presentations
Work on ideas for Essay 2
Looking ahead to Essay 3
Prepare for Essay 2 workshop
|Essay 2 (Due on-line plus hard copy in class due on Ses #14)|
Workshop Essay 2: 3 writers
Prepare for Essay 2 workshop and respond to group members
|15||Workshop Essay 2: 3 writers|| |
Homework 15 due
Proposal for Essay 3 due on Ses #16
Discuss Essay 3 topics and approaches
Prepare for debate
Revise Essay 2 (due 3 days later)
|Homework 16 due|
|17||Debate: food culture vs. food science|| |
Homework 17 due
Preliminary research for Essay 3 due
Bring easy writer and academic integrity handbook to class
Homework 18 due
Revised proposal and annotated bibliography, Essay 3, due on Ses #19
Meeting about Essay 3
Research paper issues: quoting, summarizing, citing and formatting
Prepare Essay 3 workshop
Essay 3 due
Essay 3 due on-line plus hard copy due 6 days later
Workshop Essay 3: 3 writers
Respond/prepare for Essay 3 workshop
|Vocabulary lists due on Ses #21|
Workshop Essay 3: 3 writers
Work on revision, Essay 3
|Homework 21 due|
Introduction of Essay 4
Contexts for Ratatouille
Homework 22 due
Revised Essay 3 due 4 days later
|23||Movie: Ratatouille (111 minutes) followed by discussion||Essay 4 due|
Workshop on Essay 4, small groups
Prepare oral presentation
Revise Essay 4
|Homework 24 due|
Work on re-revision and cover letter for portfolios
|Homework 25 due|
|Portfolios due 1 day later|