Dr. Sylvie Davidson, Romance Languages

Food and Eating in Medieval and Renaissance French and Italian Literary and Visual Imagery

Sylvie Davidson participated in the Valley and Ridge Summer Study Group in the Summer of 2008.  She had already taught a number of courses focusing on the representation of food and eating in Medieval and Renaissance French and Italian literary and visual imagery.  The study group was the occasion to share ideas with colleagues with different fields of expertise and to explore new considerations that could then be incorporated integrated in an educated and meaningful fashion into future courses.  An overarching concern for her was to integrate scientific, economic, historical notions into a discourse appropriate to the Humanities.

A consistent dimension  of her research has been to expand her understanding of how eating practices, food production and circulation, and the changes in tastes and cooking techniques were connected to ideologies and political systems. Moreover, the Valley and Ridge Group inspired her to extend her area of investigation geographically from France and Italy to the larger concept of a Mediterranean food culture, to introduce a comparative element in her perspectives, and to cross over from the cultural past to the present.

She has developed over the years a series of courses focused on the role played by food and eating in today‚Äôs world and on the way food choices, tastes, and specific diets have been seen as strong markers of cultural, national identities (for example her courses Cuisine and French Identity; Italy: Food, Wine, Culture.  In the Spring 2014, she taught a course looking at the political and grass root movements  connected to food production and policies in post-modern Europe, with about one third of the course dedicated to  the Slow Food Movement and the anti GMO debate.  The connection between food and migrations (Maghreb to France and Spain, Middle East to Germany, Italy to America) was also investigated. This course also required a limited, practical experience at the Dickinson Organic Farm. Her course European Feminisms taught over the same semester included a substantial component exploring themes related to food consumption (body image and anorexia nervosa) and sustainability ( a comparative study of food buying practices and cooking  in Europe and in the USA).