The Craft of Writing – Film Focus
R1B 003 | CCN: 32124
Date and Time: TU, TH 11:00am - 12:29pm
In 1985, the release of Juzo Itami’s “Ramen Western” Tampopo marked the beginning of an emerging genre: the food film. Whereas food had previously been pushed to the sidelines or treated as prop, with films such as Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987), Like Water For Chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992), and Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994), it became thematic. In this course, we will embark on a transcultural and historical exploration of food and cooking on screen, with genres and media forms ranging from cult films and animation to documentary/mockumentary and reality TV. What is the relationship between food on screen and viewer participation? How can a two-dimensional image call attention to or activate the senses of taste, smell, and touch? Why did food films not emerge until the 1980s, and what technologies and cinematic devices do they rely on? We will read texts by scholars who challenge the “ocularcentrism” of film theory to open up a larger conversation about spectatorship, sense perception, and immersive viewing experiences that go beyond the visual.
Alongside this theoretical framework, screenings from a wide variety of geographical locations and cultural contexts (the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Denmark, France, and Mexico, to name a few) will allow us to challenge assumptions about the politics of food and consumption. What does it say that food films began as a non-Western phenomenon, despite the fact that Italian and French cuisine continue to prevail over so-called “gourmet” culture (“gourmet” being a French term)? Food is often said to be universal, yet differences in cuisine and eating habits have also been used to demarcate cultural, ethnic, sexual, and class–based differences. Some of the topics we will consider are: excess and hedonism, food and eroticism, cannibalism and taboo, globalization and the commodification of the senses, and food’s relationship to nationalism, orientalism, and colonialism.
Over the course of the semester, we will practice translating our process of analyzing audiovisual media into your own analytical writing and research. We will build on frequent short in-class and at-home writing exercises building up to a Final Project and accompanying presentation. By the end of the course, you should be able to identify various audio, visual, and other formal techniques and analyze their use; draw connections among our readings and case studies; conduct relevant research; create your own original arguments that address the larger questions of the course; and strengthen your writing by incorporating feedback from your classmates and instructors. This will help prepare you not only for writing across the humanities, but also for critically engaging with the media you encounter every day.