In the Spring of 2014, artist Kara Walker unveiled a new installation: a forty-ton sugar figure, one part stereotypical “Mammy” and one part sphinx. The thirty-five-foot-tall behemoth, surrounded by slave children made of melting molasses, exemplified a disquieting truth: sugar, the favorite taste of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, was refined from the sweat, blood and suffering of millions of slaves. The Enlightenment appetite for sugar reshaped the world, buttressing the inhuman institution of slavery and giving rise to later debates concerning capitalism, liberty and human rights. This course traces the influence of eighteenth-century appetites on the Age of Enlightenment, and reads the great thinkers of the period – among them, Smith, Locke, Rousseau, Richardson and Voltaire – in relation to food and food culture. How did beef give rise to nationalism, and honey to animal rights? What do tea and chocolate have to do with gender, or pineapples with reason? Our discussion will be augmented by weekly cooking demonstrations where we'll re-create historical recipes, experiencing eighteenth-century life and culture through our own appetites.


4 sh

Course Types

Expression, Literature, Advanced Studies

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