LMC 3508: Food and Eating in Early America
T/Th 9:35-10:55am, Skiles 270

Click here to download the syllabus. (But remember that the schedule will be more up to date).

Office Hours: T/Th 11am-12pm, Skiles 359 (and by appointment)

Course Prerequisites: ENGL 1102

Core Area: Humanities

Course Description

From the time of “first contact,” European explorers—and later, colonists and citizens—were alternately fascinated and repulsed by the new foods they encountered, and they wrote about them in their journals, narratives, histories, and letters. Early American writers, in turn, imbued acts of eating with new significance as they attempted to distinguish their social, cultural, and political identities both from their European, African, and Caribbean counterparts, and from the native American cultures that abutted their own. This course will explore how ideas about food and eating were deployed in a range of textual forms, as well as at the table, so as to direct and reflect major early American concerns. We will also devote a significant portion of the course to the study of historical recipes and cookbooks. As a final project, we will work together as a class to update and contribute to a digital historical recipe archive, updated and reframed for the Food Network age.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will become aware of the traditions and conventions of literature, film, and other forms of narrative art, and they will be able to analyze those traditions and conventions in specific cultural contexts; and
  • They will learn to gather, organize, and express information clearly and accurately, with sensitivity to will be able to do so both by using traditional media and by tapping the potential of new digital media.
  • More specifically, students will read a range of writings (and explore other art forms) from the time of first contact to the Civil War;
  • They will develop an understanding of the cultural issues in play at the time, with special attention to the significance of food and eating;
  • They will develop an awareness of the significance of archival materials, as well as the theoretical and technical issues related to their continued preservation; and
  • They will create a thoroughly-considered digital historical recipe archive, informed by the range of content, criticism, and theory discussed in the course.

Required Course Materials

All required readings posted on the course website (above).

Additional research materials/expenses:

Ingredients for Cooking Assignment (see schedule for 9/22)

List of Graded Assignments
Your grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

  • Participation and quizzes: 12 points
  • Blogging assignments: 28 points
  • Class Project:
    • Midterm project assignments: 24 points
    • Final project assignments: 36 points

When calculating final grades, I employ the following numerical conversions:

A = 90-100     B = 80-89        C = 70-79        D = 60-69       F = 0-59

A = 83 to 100 points; B = 58 to 82 points; C = 33 to 81 points; D = 1 to 32 points; F = 0 points.

This chart of grading characteristics, adapted from criteria developed by Professor Mark Sample of Davidson College, describes the general rubric I employ when evaluating student work:

A (3.3-4 points * multiplier) Exceptional. The work is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations and analysis. The work demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The work reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.
B (2.3-3 points * multiplier)            Satisfactory. The work is reasonably focused, and explanations and/or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The work reflects moderate engagement with the topic.
C (1.3-2 points * multiplier) Underdeveloped. The work is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The work reflects passing engagement with the topic.
D (.3-1 points * multiplier) Limited. The work is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.
F (0 points) No Credit. The work is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences/scenes/etc.

Description of Graded Assignments

Reading Assignments
Because a significant learning objective of LMC 3508 is to enhance your understanding of the traditions and conventions of literature, and other art forms, you will be reading a wide range texts—some written clearly, some more dense; some short, some long. Because these texts will inform our classroom discussions—and what you, in particular, have to contribute—it is absolutely essential that you stay on top of the reading assignments and complete them before the start of each class. Reading assignments are assessed through classroom participation, as well as the occasional quiz.

Blogging Assignments
In effort to stimulate interaction on the course blog, as well as to allow you to introduce new material into classroom discussion, we will employ an innovative format for class blogging. During the second week of the course, I will divide the class into four blogging groups. Each blogging group will rotate through the following roles (also developed by Professor Sample):

First Readers: This is akin to the standard blog post assignment: a 250-500 word response to the week’s materials. There are a number of ways to approach the “first reader” response: to consider the week’s material in relation to its historical or theoretical context; to write about an aspect of the week’s material that you don’t understand, or that you don’t agree with; to formulate an insightful question or two about the material and then attempt to answer your own question; or another line of inquiry of your own choice. First readers are responsible for posting their response to the class blog 24 hours BEFORE the class meets.

Respondents: Students in this group build upon, disagree with, or clarify the first readers’ posts; due at the start of the class meeting. Respondents are required to comment on at least two posts, in comments of around (or longer than) a short paragraph. Comments are due by midnight on the night BEFORE the class meets.

Searchers: Students in this group find and share at least one relevant online resource (broadly conceived), and are responsible for providing a short (i.e. 250 word) evaluation of the resource, highlighting what makes it relevant to the class; due by midnight on the night BEFORE the class meets.

The fourth group has the week off.

At the completion of each cycle (i.e. each four weeks), you will receive 0-14 points on the basis of your contributions. At the end of the semester, these points will be averaged to determine your final blogging grade.

Class Project
Over the course of the semester, you will work in small groups—and, at times, as an entire class—to complete a final project: a historical recipe archive in digital form. Your grade for this project will be determined by several components:

  • Group cooking proposal and individual project analysis (24 points combined)
  • Group final project and individual project analysis (36 points combined)

Specific information about each assignment will be distributed no later than two weeks before the due date.

Attendance, Punctuality, and Late/Skipped Assignments

You are allowed three excused absences. Beginning with the fourth absence, your overall course grade will be lowered by two points for each unexcused absence.

Please be respectful to your fellow students and arrive on time. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late, you will be considered absent for that class. If you absolutely must miss a class meeting, please contact me at least 24 hours in advance in order to make alternate arrangements.

All assignments are mandatory. Should you submit an assignment after the due date, your grade for that assignment will decrease by two points for each day that it is late. Should you fail to submit an assignment entirely, you will receive an F on that assignment and consequently, a lower grade for the course.

ADAPTS Contact Information
Students with disabilities should self-report to ADAPTS at:

Smithgall Student Services Building, Suite 220
Phone: (404) 894-2564 / TTD: (404) 894-1664
Email: adaptsinfo@gatech.edu

Writing Support
The Georgia Tech communication center, CommLab, provides professional and peer tutors to work with you to improve your writing skills. More information, including instructions for how to set up an appointment via the website, is available here:

Clough Learning Commons
Phone: (404) 894-3805
Email: commlab@gatech.edu

Honor Code Statement
Plagiarism is an extremely serious offense. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in an F on the assignment and possibly in the course, as well as potential disciplinary action. For more information, please refer to the definition of “academic misconduct” included in the Georgia Tech honor code, available online at:


If you are unsure as to what constitutes plagiarism, please contact me before submitting your assignment.

Class-by-Class Schedule
An up-to-date class-by-class schedule is available on the schedule page.

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