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Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 29-Apr-24

Fall 2024 | HUM-2120-VO01 - The Power of Food in Literature, Culture & Film

Online Class

Online courses take place 100% online via Canvas, without required in-person or Zoom meetings.

Location: Online
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Day/Times: Meets online
Semester Dates: 09-03-2024 to 12-16-2024
Last day to drop without a grade: 09-16-2024 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 11-04-2024 - Refund Policy
Open Seats: 14 (as of 07-13-24 2:05 PM)
To check live space availability, Search for Courses.


Mercedes Pour-Previti
View Faculty Credentials
View Faculty Statement
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Jennifer Gundy

General Education Requirements

This section meets the following CCV General Education Requirement(s) for the current catalog year:
VSCS Humanistic Perspectives
  1. Many degree programs have specific general education recommendations. In order to avoid taking unnecessary classes, please consult with additional resources like your program evaluation, your academic program catalog year page, and your academic advisor.
  2. Courses may only be used to meet one General Education Requirement.

Course Description

In this interdisciplinary course, students explore the power and meaning of food and how it is contextualized within the broader aspects of culture and human experience as revealed and expressed in literature and film. Although food plays a fundamental role in survival, it is also at the heart of shared and ritualized eating practices--from simple to ceremonial--that shape identity and define notions of community. Through interpreting short fiction, novels, poems, essays and select films, students will explore the cultural and social significance of food in a range of world cultures, the role of food as a literary or cinematic device, and the metaphoric quality of food as it expresses human desire and behavior.

Essential Objectives

1. Define basic literary elements and identify examples where food is employed as a device to express ideas, tone, and values in literature and film.
2. Critically read, view, analyze and evaluate selected works of contemporary literature and film in a broad selection of cultures from around the world, focusing on how food choices, and food-related rituals and behaviors reflect issues of identity and community.
3. Describe the metaphoric quality of food in both eating practices and presentation in a variety of cultures and discuss how food (or its absence) can powerfully convey meaning in social contexts.
4. Examine the historical, social, economic, political, and cultural circumstances surrounding the role and availability of food as it is expressed in selected works of literature and film.
5. Discuss the social justice issues of food access and/or food production as identified in selected works.
6. Examine how the types and uses of food in film and literature may project a specific, erroneous, or limited image of a culture, and evaluate what is lost and gained in the process.
7. Critically view and analyze films, examining how artistic interpretation and the use of visual imagery and soundtracks influence the portrayal and perception of the role of food in culture and relationships.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

*** This is a low cost ($50 or less) textbook or resource class. ***

This course uses one or more textbooks/books/simulations, along with free Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials.

Fall 2024 textbook/book details will be available on 2024-05-20. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be specific to this class. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks/books.

HUM-2120-VO01 Link to Textbooks for this course in eCampus.

For Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials details, see the Canvas Site for this class.

The last day to use a Financial Aid Advance to purchase textbooks/books is the 3rd Tuesday of the semester. See your financial aid counselor at your academic center if you have any questions.


As an online class, we will obviously gather virtually - but a lot of the work you do will be almost physical. You will need to read materials carefully, view four-five films critically and carefully, prepare for three cultural observations (where you will observe how, where, and why people consume food), and keep notes of all this activity so that you are ready to share your insights with your peers. I will post short lectures and guides to help you navigate all this. My responsibilities also include posting the following: "terms" of week so we all learn to use and understand a new vocabulary of food and culture, mini-video introductions of each week's topic, frequent and timely response to your work in the post and discussion forums, and honest and constructive feedback on your writing and ideas.

As this is an online course, expect the amount of personal work to be serious, but not overwhelming. You will be reading and writing every week and should really work to stay current if not ahead of the reading in order to be successful.

In terms of the actual methods we will use to explore this topic, you can expect:

  • Weekly microlectures which may or may not include a powerpoint.
  • Assigned reading almost every week (which I expect you to keep notes on).
  • Assigned viewings regularly throughout the course (which you should also keep notes on).
  • Three “socio”-observations which will require you to go out into your community and observe food in our culture.
  • Various food “exercises” which you will try to incorporate into your week and then write about your experience.
  • Weekly discussion and post forums (both of which are outlined below).
  • One 500 word maximum essay and one independent reading/viewing project (again outlined below).
  • Regular visits and interaction with the course and your peers through Canvas. I do expect everyone to be on the site and active at least three times a week for a total minimum of three hours.
  • Interaction with your instructor either by email, message, or phone as you feel is needed.

I do reserve the right to shift this syllabus slightly as the course progresses if our class situation warrants so.

Texts & Required Materials:

Need to buy in any format: Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing

Weekly academic journal articles (accessed through Hartness Library – permalinked in syllabus and in Canvas)

Four films:(which you must purchase or purchase viewing rights to)

High on the Hog (only available through Netflix - an alternative will be available if you do not have Netflix)

Food, Inc

Fried Green Tomatoes

The Hundred Foot Journey

N.B. Only some items from our required course materials are available through the CCV Bookstore. You are responsible for securing copies of the films below through other avenues (Netflix, Amazon, your local library, your local video store, etc.). Some of the academic readings are available through the Hartness Library at no additional cost to you as part of your status as a CCV student. You will have to log in to read these materials.

One film or novel/book of the student's choosing (that is different from our posted resources) as the topic of the final presentation. You will require access to a computer with the ability to record sound and some presentation software (powerpoint, etc - you have free access through CCV). A list of acceptable books/films will be available in the Canvas classroom.

Evaluation Criteria

Please know that this course runs Tuesday - Monday night. Work must be posted before 12 am on Tuesday to be considered submitted in the week prior. However, in the forums below take note of the due dates of original posts and responses.

In anticipation of internet/computer/access issues please have a backup plan. Know where you can access a computer and/or internet in your community and utilize multiple backup options. Your local CCV and libraries are great resources. Extensions for computer issues do not exist.

STATEMENT on Artificial Intelligence in this course:

Please know that the majority of your learning and development in this course will come from engaging with and reflecting on the course material. If you outsource that to AI - you simply will not gain as much understanding of the content. However, this course’s generative AI policy acknowledges technology, including generative AI, plays a supportive role in learning and feedback. During our class, we may use AI writing tools such as ChatGPT in certain specific cases. You will be informed as to when, where, and how these tools are permitted to be used, along with guidance for attribution. Any use outside of these specific cases constitutes a violation of CCV’s Academic Integrity Policy. If I notice work submitted that suggests you used AI without attribution, I will investigate that use, communicate with you, and grade accordingly.

35% Discussion Forum: Each week I will pose a question or questions on the week’s topic. In your response I ask that you demonstrate that you have done the readings or the viewings, have thought critically about the issues at hand, and are attempting to share your experiences to further the group discussion. This is where I am looking for you to use the week's readings or viewings to inform your answers to posted questions or discussion topics. This forum is a bit more informal - though all writing should have a tone fitting for professional exchange (No "text-language" - though the occasional smiley face helps to alleviate any miscommunication in our online community). Each week you must post a discussion response and respond to the posts of a minimum two of your peers. In order to earn full credit in this forum:

  • the original post must be a minimum of a full paragraph piece 250-400 words
  • you must have at least two responses to your peers which approach short paragraphs (simple affirmations or short responses will not earn full credit)
  • use your peer's names when you post a reply to them

Discussions only count if posted within the week they are due. In order to receive full credit and allow time for your peers to comment, please submit your first substantive post by Friday night.

25% Post Forum: Most weeks I ask you to post a more formal reflection on the week’s topic or write a more formal summary of an ethnographic observation. This is a writing you compose and then post for your peers to read. I would expect these posts to be one – two short paragraphs (minimum of 200 words) and demonstrate both mastery and familiarity with topics, readings, and viewings from the weeks prior. This is where I will expect you to begin to synthesize your thoughts as we move through the course. There are no replies required for this forum (but they are always welcome). You may miss one post without penalty or I will drop your lowest grade. In order to receive full credit please post by Sunday night.

Both of the forums above will be graded according to their respective descriptions and the following rubric:

  • 10 points -The original post was submitted on time and responses were completed within the week allowing enough time for others to reply. This discussion is a response to the questions posed by the instructor in each week's forum prompt and includes evidence that both shows all readings/viewing are complete and that supports ideas. Tone is respectful and professional. *This is a superior post - do not expect this level without giving each post real time*
  • 8-9 points -The original post was submitted on time and responses were completed within the week allowing enough time for others to reply. This discussion post either responds to the questions posed by the instructor in each week's forum prompt or includes evidence that all readings/viewing are complete. Language and tone are serious but miss the level of attention for a 5. Postings are shorter than optimal.
  • 6-7 points -The original post is late or was submitted on time with responses completed within the week. This discussion post either responds to the questions posed by the instructor in each week's forum prompt or includes evidence that all readings/viewing are complete. However, attention to detail, tone, and original thoughts are satisfactory. Responses are little more than attempts to agree/disagree with substance or reasoning and proofs. All contributions are a bit shorter than what the topic deserves.
  • 4-5 points -The original post is late or was submitted on time with less than required responses completed within the week. This discussion post fails to either respond to the questions posted by the instructor or include evidence that all readings/viewing are complete. There is an attempt to participate but little attention paid to composition or thought.
  • 2-3 point -Nominal participation or inappropriate/disrespectful tone.
  • 0-1 points -No participation or plagiarized language/material.

20% Writing All due Monday night at the end of the week in which they fall. These will include the following:

  • Essay : Food Memory

This is a short writing piece (400-500 words) – but please don’t be misled into thinking brevity means low quality. Please make sure that everything you write has a purpose in your essay and choose your words and images carefully.
Please share a memory from your own life that may or not may not have revolved around food; the one criteria for this memory is that food or a food event was present. Then write about this memory while using the food that was present to help you convey a sense of the emotions, the tensions, the relationships, and the atmosphere of that memory. Hopefully, this will be a chance for you to really explore the different elements of your memory and try to capture them in a short piece of writing.

20% Final Project

This project is the vehicle through which you will demonstrate mastery of the themes and material from the semester. This, however, is an opportunity for you to explore some of these topics on your own and to apply them to a film or book of your choice. Ideally, this will be a project that is not only academically intriguing but also personally compelling. For this presentation you must:

o Choose a book or a film to read/view independently.
This does not have to be specifically food-based, but must obviously use food as a literary or cinematic tool. This may be something you have read/seen before - but NOT one of this course's resources. There is a marvelous list of books and films at the end of the Dinner and a Movie reading from Week 4. I would also be very interested in a project that revolved around a particular food-based TV show, radio program, or magazine. This kind of project, however, would require a minimum of three (3) episodes/issues in order to be comparable to a book/film project.

o Identify how the book/film incorporates two themes or "powers of food" from this class. Please identify and then demonstrate how your film/book uses two of the following themes which revolve around food: culture, ethnicity, faith, identity, community, business (commodity), gender, nationality, connection.

o Submit the project on time to Canvas. Full rubric and description in canvas.

Please know that work posted beyond the week it is due will not be graded (without prior excused absence). This class does not have extra credit.

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


Exploring Food & Ourselves


Class Terms and Course Expectations

Bower, A. (2004) Watching food: The Production of Food, Film, and Values. Psychology Press. First Chapter found on google books.

Mintz, S. W., & Bois, C. (2002). THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF FOOD AND EATING. Annual Review Of Anthropology, 31(1), 99-119. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.32.032702.131011

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Foreward by Ruth Reichl xix

· Introduction: A Toast to Taste xxv


Discussion: Introductions
Post: What is Food?



Defining Culture


Villareal, C. (2007). CULTURAL RELATIVITY: MY WORLD, YOUR WORLD, OUR WORLD. ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 64(3), 230-234. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Robin Fox "On Food and Eating"

Peter Menzel's "What the World Eats"

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Introduction to Cultural Tales 319

· Chopsticks by Roland Barthes 324

· Chopsticks by Margaret Visser 326

· Taste is a Cultural Product by Massimo Montanari 331

· The Logic of Cannibalism (optional) 336

· The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten 212


Discussion: Cultural Relativity & Food



Food, Culture, and Memoir


Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Sole Meunière by Julia Child 200

· Cold Stuffed Eggs Pätcher by Cara de Silva 234

· Spices by Audre Lorde 108

· Crazy in the Kitchen by Louise DeSalvo 129

· The Queen of Mold by Ruth Reichl 142


Discussion: Observation #1 Cultural Eating
Post: Food in a Memoir



Food, Culture, and Identity


Bower, A. (2004) Watching food: The Production of Food, Film, and Values. Psychology Press. First Chapter found on google books.

View: Fried Green Tomatoes


Discussion: Media Analysis
Post: The Roles of Food in Fried Green Tomatoes



Food & Identity as a Writing Device: Memoir


Pour-Previti, M. "Consuming Identity." essay.


Assignment #1: Food Memory & Identity Essay



Gendered Foods


Brissette, C. (2017) "Is Meat Manly? How society pressures us to make gendered food choices. The Washington Post.

Freedman, P. (2019) "How steak became manly and salads became feminine." The Conversation. PBS. https://pbs.com

Williams-Forson, P. (2010). Other Women Cooked for My Husband: Negotiating Gender, Food, and Identities in an African American/Ghanaian Household. Feminist Studies, 36(2), 435-461.


Discussion: Gendered Food or Food System
Post: Observation #2 on Food and Gender



Food & Faith


Dallam, M. (2014) "Religion, food and eating." Introduction of Benjamin E. Zeller, Marie W. Dallam, Reid L. Neilson, & Nora L Rubel. Religion, Food, and Eating in North America. Columbia University Press. E-book. xvii - xxxi.

Nath, J. (2010). 'God is a vegetarian': The food, health and bio-spirituality of Hare Krishna, Buddhist and Seventh-Day Adventist devotees. Health Sociology Review, 19(3), 356-368.

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Introduction 1

· Leviticus 11 4

· Passover by Elizabeth Ehrlich 160

· Cooking the Kaddish 135


Discussion: The Primacy of Food and Faith



Community and Food


Flachs, A. (2010). Food for Thought: The Social Impact of Community Gardens in the Greater Cleveland Area. Electronic Green Journal, 1(30), 1-9

Adam Gopnik interview from On Point


Discussion: Food in Community



Ethnicity & Nationality


View: The Hundred Foot Journey

Ferdan, R. (2016). "How Americans pretend to love ‘ethnic food.’" The Washington Post.

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· A Magic Bagel by Calvin Trillin 112

· Swallowing Fish Bones by Linda Furiya 176

· Indian Takeout by Jhumpa Lahiri 183


Discussion: Ethnic Foods



The Ethnic Legacy of American Foods


View: High on the Hog (Netflix)

Tobias, R. (2020). "Is There Such a Thing as ‘American’ Food? Exploring the history of American taste as a story of immigrant appetites From: https://www.tastingtable.com/culture/national/defining-american-food-cuisine

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Ash Cake by Frederick Douglass 60

· Wet Dogs and White People by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 156


Discussion: Legacy of Ethnic Foods



The Short Ones: Essays, Short Stories and Poems


Harrison, J. (2021) "The Importance of Getting Food Right in Fiction" from The Literary Hub. lithub.com

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift 26

· The Whale as a Dish by Herman Melville 64

· This is Just to Say 192

· A Rat in My Soup by Peter Hessler 251


Discussion: Important Stories



The Business of Food


View: Food, Inc, or alternatives (listed in Canvas)

Schlosser, E. (2006). Cheap food nation. Sierra, 91(6), 36-39. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· The Jungle by Upton Sinclair 78

· Slow Food Manifesto by Carlo Petrini 408

· Cattle Metropolis by Michael Pollan 415

· The Worst by Eric Schlosser 419


Discussion: Food as a Product
Post: Observation #3 Chain Restaurant



Interacting with Food


"Cooking Food" Michael Pollan

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Our Hunger for Cookbooks by Adam Goptnik 456


Discussion: Why We Cook and Serve



Consumption: Final Presentations Due


Resources on creating a narrated presentation


Discussion: Share and Review Presentations



Food & Ethics


VPR Story on weekend backpacks

Podcast: Alice Waters on the Ethics of Eating

Global Food Insecurity data pages from the United Nations

Peter Singer on Eating

Selections from Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing:

· Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace 422

· You Can’t Run…on Harvest Day by Barbara Kingsolver 409


Discussion: Do Our Meals Reflect our Ethics?
Post: Class Reflections


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations

In order to explore this topic, we must first agree that this course will be a bit different than other courses. The topic demands your participation and your contributions. For that reason, your “presence” on the different forums is paramount to your success in this course, and I will use your participation in the discussion board to log your attendance. Engaging with your peer and our topics in the forums is central to this course. That is where most students create meaningful connections to our course content.

Our weeks run from Tuesday to Monday night this semester. Any participation in a forum after Monday night does not count toward the previous week. If you miss three weeks, it will be difficult to earn a passing grade. (Also see Grading Criteria below)

Missing & Late Work Policy

You have all assignments outlined or planned below so should be able to plan around any significant busy times in your own lives. As this is an online course I need to be rather firm with deadlines – for both your benefit and mine. Any late work is automatically graded lower for every day it is late and will not be accepted a week past the due date. However, since we are all adults and realize that life does happen, know that if you do have a personal emergency you can always email me before the work is due. As a rule, late work is not graded without communication; there is no "extra credit" in this course as there are many ways to earn credit.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.