Culture Courses - Language and Culture Track

111. Histories of Paris 

Christina von Koehler
Using the buildings and space of Paris as a laboratory, this course surveys key events in the histories of Paris and France. The course will focus on the social and cultural history of the city in its material dimensions; the relation of streets and buildings to the unfolding events of French history, and the meanings of local topography within the enduring mythologies of the city. A central goal of the course is to teach students to read and write critically about the history of Paris and the cityscape around them. Includes some excursions.
5.0 UC quarter units.  
This course has previously transferred for these subject areas:  History/Sociology/Urban Studies

126.  Food and Dining in French Art: From the Early Modern Period to the Present

Amanda Herold Marme

Food as a theme has been present in art since prehistoric times.  Beyond their aesthetic qualities, representations of food and dining reveal social, religious, economic, historical, and scientific beliefs and practices present in the cultures in which they are created.  France has long been esteemed for both its art and its gastronomy—in 2010, UNESCO added the “Gastronomic meal of the French” to its Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  This course aims to combine these two creative domains by exploring the place of food and dining in French art, with a focus on the modern and contemporary periods.

We will begin by studying and decoding the archetypal representations of succulent food still life and genre painting created in prosperous 16th-17th century Holland, which establish the conventions of the genre for centuries to come. We will then examine the rise of these previously minor and undervalued artistic genres in 18th century France, thanks to figures such as Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, whose celebrated food still life paintings coincide with the birth of French gastronomy during the reign of Louis XV.  We will next explore how frivolous depictions of aristocrats wining, dining and indulging in exotic beverages like coffee and hot chocolate give way in post-Revolutionary, 19th century France to visions of austerity and “real life”, featuring potato-eating peasants who toil in the fields to produce the bounty of the harvest.

Our focus will then shift to representations of food and dining in the age of modernity, when Paris was the undisputed capital of art, luxury, haute cuisine and innovation.  We will analyze how Impressionist picnics and café scenes transgress social and artistic codes, shedding light on the tenets of modern life and art, and how, building on their momentum, Paul Cézanne launches an aesthetic revolution with an apple. Paul Gauguin’s depictions of mangos and guavas speak to his quest for new, “exotic” sources of inspiration, and will allow us to discuss questions of race and French colonialist discourse.

Drawing from these pictorial and social innovations, we will subsequently observe the place of food and dining themes in the rapid succession of avant-garde movements that emerge in early 20th century Paris, whose defiance of conventional society and art lead them to transform these previously comforting and pleasant themes into troubling “anti-diets”. This will lead us to question the place of food—or its absence--in art to capture the suffering and violence of 20th century upheavals like the Second World War.

We will conclude our study with the place of food and dining in contemporary art, beginning with the Pop Art movement which further elevates the quotidian while calling into question postwar consumer society and art through its representations of industrialized, mass-produced food.  We will then explore how contemporary creators in a plural and globalized art scene use these traditional themes to challenge and redefine the status and roles of the artist, the spectator, and the work of art itself, as food becomes an artistic material, the remains of a meal become a tableau, artist becomes restaurateur and the focus shifts to the inedible.  Finally, we will explore how depictions of food in visual art grapple with multiculturalism in French contemporary society.

Throughout the course, representations of food and dining will be studied as a means to survey the evolution of French art, and as significant markers of social, ethnic and cultural identity. Our analysis of these depictions will also provide the opportunity to learn about dietary and dining customs, habits and beliefs prevalent in France from the early modern period to the present.

5.0 UC quarter units. This course can transfer for these subject areas:  Art History/History/Sociology

127. Food for Thought:  Politics of Food and Environment in France

Ruchi Anand

There is a good reason why France was showcased at the Paris Climate Change Summit in 2015. According to the 2016 Food and Nutrition Sustainability Index (FSI) published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), France is a pioneer country ranking first amongst 25 countries. France scores highest on policy and governmental action including its quality of response to food losses, tackling distribution-level loss, management of water supplies, climate change mitigation, and unhealthy eating habits. Growing public concern on the issue of food wastage recently led to the ‘Supermarket Law’, making France the first country in the world to penalize supermarkets that throw away edible products to end food waste. As global population rises at the same time as food consumption, it is crucial to understand how problems of food and the environment occur at all stages of the production and supply chains. Environmental concerns linked with food are not unique to France, a nation of gourmets and haute cuisine, but France can serve as a case study to interrogate the complexities of environmental politics and controversies. This course aims to introduce students to the politics and controversies of environmental issues in France and their inter-connections with food and similar politics at the EU and UN levels. In doing so, it will explore some pressing environmental issues facing the country such as GMO politics, food wastage, air pollution, water pollution, species extinction, environmental justice, trade, climate change and the impact of chemicals on health to name a few. It will critically assess the nature of problems encountered; and discuss workable solutions for sustainable development in order to avoid a “tragedy of the commons."

5.0 UC quarter units credits. Suggested subject areas for this course: Political Science/Environmental Science/European Studies