Food Studies: Eating America ENGL/HUMA 389, Fall 2017, New Mexico Tech

Dr. Shawn M. Higgins

Favorite hot sauces: Louisiana Crystal, Blair's After Death Sauce
  • Preferred Pronouns: He, Him, His
  • E-mail: shawn.higgins@nmt.edu
  • Office: Fitch 212
  • Office Phone: 575-835-5455
  • Office Hours: TR 12:30-14:30 and by appointment
  • Office Hour Sign-ups: http://shawnhiggins.youcanbook.me

I want this classroom to be accessible for all students, including those with learning differences (disclosed or undisclosed) and/or those needing accommodations. Please feel free to meet with me at the beginning of the semester to discuss more long-term concerns. To schedule an appointment with the Office of Counseling and Disability Services (OCDS) to discuss formal accommodations or for free mental health and substance abuse counseling, please call 575-835-6619.

Office Hour Meetings

All supplemental discussions of in-class work, participation, essay drafting, and grading take place during office hours. The instructor can/will submit written comments back to students after having met in office hours. Please arrive on-time with note-taking materials/devices, and please do take notes on the content of the discussion.

State Core Learning Outcomes for Humanities Courses

  1. Analyze and critically interpret significant primary texts and/or works of art (fine art, literature, music, theater, and film).
  2. Compare art forms, modes of thought and expression, and processes across a range of historical periods and/or structures (such as political, geographic, economic, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual).
  3. Recognize and articulate the diversity of human experience across a range of historical periods and/or cultural perspectives.
  4. Draw on historical and/or cultural perspectives to evaluate any or all of the following: contemporary problems/issues, contemporary modes of expression, and contemporary thought.

Course-Specific Learning Outcomes

Throughout this course, students will work toward learning, improving on, and mastering the following skills (adapted from the Association of American Colleges & Universities VALUE rubrics):

  1. Creative thinking (Students will compose papers, reports, and presentations that require pushing beyond boundaries, uncovering or critically perceiving new syntheses, and using or recognizing creative risk-taking to achieve a desired outcome. Students will be assessed on their ability to showcase the acquiring of these competencies, their willingness to take risks, and their innovative modes of thinking).
  2. Critical thinking (Students will complete assignments that require evaluating information sources and self-reflection. Students will be assessed on their critique of ambiguity, their recognition of assumptions, their ability to contextualize, and their extraction of meaning from sources).
  3. Intercultural knowledge and competence (Students will demonstrate their understanding of their position as a member of a world community and their knowledge that we share the future with others through their seminar interactions. This involves meaningfully engaging with others, placing social justice in political and historical context, and putting culture at the core of transformative learning. Students will identify their own cultural patterns, compare and contrast them with others, and adapt empathetically and flexibly to unfamiliar ways of being. Students will be assessed on their presence and participation in seminar and their fostering of this intercultural environment).
  4. Oral communication (Students will individually deliver presentations in which a central message is conveyed that is supported by materials and organized in a purposeful way. Students will be assessed on the clarity of their central message, their delivery techniques, their language usage, the organization of their points, and their usage of supporting materials).
Credit: Randall Munroe / XKCD

Course Summary

"This is a book about food in America, but it isn't really about food, and it doesn't start in America."

- Founder of and drummer for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots and all-around Renaissance Man Amir "Questlove" Thompson begins his 2016 culinary narrative somethingtofoodabout with the quote above. Because there is nothing I can do that Questlove can't do better, I would like to simply adapt his prose for the purposes of this syllabus. This course is about food in the United States, but it isn't really about food, and it doesn't start or end in the U.S.A.

Now for a more registrar-focused description. This is a 3-unit, upper-division, undergraduate course in the field of Humanities. Students should successfully complete ENGL 111 and 112 before taking this course. This course helps to complete the Area 5 — Humanities section of the General Education Core Curriculum requirement for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Specifically, this interdisciplinary course explores and critically examines both longstanding and emerging foodways found among the peoples, regions, and cultures of the United States. Students will read novels, short stories, essays, and criticism on issues involving or related to food, drink, and dining habits. Other sources for analysis might include mixed media, restaurant menus, cookbooks, or even the spaces of restaurants themselves. Potential subjects for discussion include race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, health, advertising, labor, and more. This course places a heavy emphasis on participation in seminar discussions and involves four written or oral exams on texts. Students will also contribute to a "New Mexico Tech Cookbook" as part of a collaborative, creative project.

Statement of Values

(Adapted from Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen of the University of Southern California's online post regarding his departmental statement).

Literature is a sanctuary. No book has ever refused a reader. Great literature cannot exist if it is based on hate, fear, division, exclusion, scapegoating, or the worship of injustice and power. Writers cannot write if they are incapable of empathy, of imagining what it is that an other feels, thinks, and sees. Through reading and writing, through identifying with characters who are nothing like us, we who love words learn to love others.

As a practitioner, scholar, and teacher of literature, I am committed to these literary principles, which manifest themselves outside of books through inclusion, diversity, hospitality, respect, dialogue, and love. I stand against any form of physical or verbal abuse, any use of language to stigmatize or demonize people, any assault on someone’s body or character, any threat to deport, report, or register someone because of their race, culture, national origin, religion, sexuality, gender, ideology, class, disability, or being. I proclaim to my students what we know so well from our paradoxical experiences with literature: even if each of us is solitary as a reader or a writer, none of us is alone. Words bring us together.

I remain committed to the power of the story, the word, and the image. Storytelling has always been crucial to this and any other country. Those who seek to lead our country must persuade the people through their ability to tell a story about who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. The struggle over the direction of our country is also a contest over whose words will win and whose images will ignite the collective imagination. While the recent presidential election was and is controversial, it serves to remind us of the necessity of our vocation, of the crucial role that literature plays in shaping the imagination and in offering refuge. What we do in the CLASS department matters. What we do, as teachers, writers, and scholars, is to assert, again and again, that you are not alone.

New Mexico Tech supports freedom of expression within the parameters of a respectful learning environment. As stated in the New Mexico Tech Guide to Conduct and Citizenship: “New Mexico Tech’s primary purpose is education, which includes teaching, research, discussion, learning, and service. An atmosphere of free and open inquiry is essential to the pursuit of education. Tech seeks to protect academic freedom and build on individual responsibility to create and maintain an academic atmosphere that is a purposeful, just, open, disciplined, and caring community.”

Required Supplies

  • 8.5" x 11" lined paper, pencils/pens, highlighters (at least 3 different colors), sticky notes
  • An Internet-ready device with battery life supporting a 75-minute class
  • Recommended: An Amazon Prime Video, NetFlix, Hulu, or other streaming service

Required Texts

The following books are available at the bookstore. However, with the campus marking these books up at least 10% of their cover prices, I advise all of you to acquire them through the most economic means available.

Fred Ho. Raw Extreme Manifesto. Skyhorse, 2012. 160 pages. ISBN: 9781616084653
Eds. Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan IV, and Anita Mannur. Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader. NYU Press, 2013. 444 pages. ISBN: 9781479869251
Don Lee. Wrack & Ruin. W.W. Norton and Company, 2009. 336 pages. ISBN: 9780393334753

The "Files" section of our course Canvas site also contains many PDF files that must be read. These texts are designated as such. In addition, there are articles that you will need to access via databases to which NMT's Skeen Library subscribes. If you are unfamiliar with how to access articles, please see me in my office hours or visit Skeen Library for a tutorial.

The world of scholarly publishing relies on readers accessing articles. Your accessing articles turns into metrics which then turn into prestige for the journal and for the associated authors. Therefore, I kindly ask you to access the following articles yourself through our Interlibrary Loan system so that the authors receive the metrics they deserve (and we can show Tech that humanities articles/journal subscriptions are in demand!) It would serve you well to submit these requests early in the semester -- ILL can take a few days, and you don't want to be without the reading.

  • (Week 5) Kinney, Rebecca J. "Riding Shotgun with an LA Son: Race, Place, and Mobility in Roy Choi's Culinary Autobiography." Food, Culture & Society 21.1 (2017): 59-75.

Course Schedule

Students can expect the reading/viewing for homework to take between 4-6 hours weekly. Therefore, time management for this course is essential.

Come ready to discuss the readings/viewing listed on the day they appear (unless something is designated as "In-Class").

Students who prefer PDF versions of websites are encouraged to use Print Friendly, a free online service that cleans up and formats websites into PDFs. I believe in sending traffic to websites where writing has been posted, and therefore, I will not create PDFs of these readings upfront. Links for website reading will always be made available here.

Subject to change. Last updated: 3 November 2017.

Grading Policy

  • 35% = In-Class Participation (verbal and written production, not just listening/staying awake. Students who are present but not actively participating can receive up to 10% of that day's points). [Intercultural Knowledge and Competence]
  • 10% = Territory-Inspired Menu Presentation (an 8" x 11.5" printed menu consisting of a custom four-course meal inspired by an assigned United States territory, then presented in five minutes with approximately 75 seconds given to each creation's rationale) [Creative Thinking, Oral Communication]
  • 40% = Oral Exams/In-Class Essays (10% each. Oral exams consisting of one question selected out of a possible four with four minutes to respond, then a previously undisclosed follow-up question with one minute to respond. In-Class essays given along the same guidelines with two questions and seventy-five minutes for a written response. All exams are open-notes, open-books). [Critical Thinking]
  • 15% = NMT Cookbook Recipe Submission (5% for full first draft and peer review, 10% for final submission. At least 1500 words, consisting of a recipe and a narrative about the dish. The recipe section should be less than 500 words of the submission's total). [Creative Thinking]
  • A (100-93) | A- (92-90)
  • B+ (89-87) | B (86-83) | B- (82-80)
  • C+ (79-77) | C (77-73) | C- (72-70)
  • D+ (69-67) | D (67-63)
  • F (62-0)

Classroom/Office Hours Recording Policy

According to N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-12-1(C), "The reading, interrupting, taking or copying of any message, communication or report is unlawful without the consent of one of the parties to said communication" (Updated 7/11/2016). My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression, or when they are taken from another source, they are documented accordingly. Students are authorized to take written notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and for no other use. "Smart pen" digital recording/writing utensils are not allowed in this course or in office hour meetings. If you wish to record my lecture, you must receive written authorization at the beginning of each class session; authorization during one class period does not extend to another separate period. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, post these on any form of social media (regardless of privacy settings), or make a commercial use of them without prior written permission from me.

Created By
Shawn Higgins


Created with images by cegoh - "pepper yellow red"

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