Gustatory Romanticism Course Begins!

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The Romanticism course that you all helped to craft is live online and scheduled for its second meeting on Monday:

Course Description: The newly-established restaurant quickly became the preferred meeting place where critics, poets, artists, authors of the British Romantic Era discussed aesthetic standards. Then, they travelled abroad on the Grand Tour to discover the gustatory delights of foreign lands. Some returned from exotic locales with opium-induced, waking nightmares. Others indulged in dinner, opera, and artwork. Denise Gigante attributes this zest for taste to a quest for pleasure, a state of mind that the Romantics decidedly embraced. During the semester, we will read through, look at, map, and visualize the journey of the Romantic literary “(Wo)Man of Taste” through canonical and non-canonical authors alike, including Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Mary and Percy Shelley, Coleridge, DeQuincy, Wollstonecraft, Byron, Keats, Clare, Hogg, with quite a bit of visual pleasure included from Gilpin, Combe, Rowlandson, and Blake – all to reveal the relationship between aesthetic taste and appetite in Britain 1770-1837. Our discussions will be governed by Denise Gigante's theories of gustatory pleasures and supported by readings on the sublime, picturesque, and beautiful early in the semester -- in turn, leading us into the establishment of physical gustatory pleasures of taste in contrast against artistic definitions of literary taste. After an initial meeting in which we crowd-sourced what the students want to read, the schedule came together with primarily non-fiction essays and Shelley's Frankenstein as the pinnacle of our travel rewards. (Though some requested lots of Blake, some Charlotte Smith sonnet sequences, I couldn't quite get them to fit into our theme.) Our final days will be spent reading actual gourmands who were writing during the Romantic period -- most definitely authors outside our canonical Big 6.

The initial description and title for this graduate course were crowd-sourced via my Twitter community, made up of Romanticists and Digital Humanists, as well as the grand community of former NEH participants in Summer 2010.  As the semester moves along, I will regularly post to Teaching Romanticism: A Romantic Circles Pedagogy Blog, since that community was also helpful in crafting this course.

Since Digital Humanities and interesting digital projects are part of my work, I queried the students about introducing a mapping project similar to the project described in Erin Sells’ article on ProfHack/Chronicle of Higher Education about “Mapping Novels with GoogleEarth.” I couldn't obtain adequate computer lab time to create a mapping project for our class, but I left a single day open to see if we could make it happen. That project will collaborative and class-driving; I'm not even sure it will be graded. This is another area that I'd like to leave open to the course participants to discuss/decide. In any event, the mapping project (say of The Grand Tour by Mary Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, or the Shelleys) would be really incredible to visualize. Also, these are teachers and teachers-in-training. Giving them permission to be creative and then providing them with the skills to take these kinds of projects to their students is the real-world kind of skills that I believe our program should be offering our students.


Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 2nd ed. Ed. Susan Wolfson. Longman, 2007.
Mellor Anne and Richard Matlak. British Literature 1780-1830. Wadsworth, 2005.
Gigante, Denise. Taste: A Literary History. Yale, 2005.
Gigante, Denise, ed. Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy. Routledge, 2005.

Check out our Reading Schedule.

I invite comments and contributions (or anyone want to Skype in on any night?)

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This sounds like a wonderful

This sounds like a wonderful course. Food is where nature and culture (high and low) meet. If I may, there are other complex food issues:
- the role of meat in culture. See Beef and Liberty by Ben Rogers
- potatoes vs wheat. See the well known Katherine Gallagher essay on potatoes in her Practicing New Historicism.
- Beer (vs wine) and esp. homemade beers. William Cobbett makes much of this in Rural Rides. The whole of the rides involves eating and politics. John Barrel touches on ale houses in his reading of George Moreland's paintings in The Dark Side of the Landscape.
- Anything on the Highland Clearances. You mention Hogg. His Shepherd's Calendar has a brief essay on Storms (see the Douglas Mack edition) and the role of sheep in culture. Essentially the clearnances where sheep vs. people (growing wheat) on arable land.
- milk and cheese in Robert Bloomfield's The Farmer's Boy (Spring) and if you wanted to go later in the 19th c period then dairies, gender, etc. in Hardy's Tess.

I'll not that much of what I've listed does not fall easily into aesthetics (except perhaps the picturesque of agriculture or the sublime of feed populations). However, it does demonstrate the entanglement of taste, politics, and human and animal and plant bodies.

Best wishes with your course. I would be interested to see how it plays out. Keep blog readers posted. Feel free to email me any time.