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How Food and Drink Shaped European Culture

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0428
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Leonard Barkan

Plato’s Symposium is a timeless philosophical text, one that also describes a drinking party. Salome performed her dance at a banquet where the head of John the Baptist was presented on a platter. Ancient mosaics, Dutch still lifes, and Venetian depictions of the Last Supper all find food and dining at their center.

Leonard Barkan, a professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, holds that eating and drinking can be seen as aesthetic experiences as well as sensory ones. Drawing on his new book The Hungry Eye, he explores the central role of food and drink in literature, art, philosophy, religion, and statecraft from antiquity to the Renaissance.

To illustrate how culture finds expression in what we eat and drink he reveals why ancient Rome was a paradise of culinary obsessives and explains what it meant for the Israelites to dine on manna. He discusses the surprising relationship between Renaissance perspective and dinner parties, and offers epicurean insights into Rabelais, Shakespeare, Leonardo, and Vermeer as he covers the glorious ways that the dinner table has transfigured Western arts and high culture.

Copies of The Hungry Eye: Eating, Drinking, and European Culture from Rome to the Renaissance (Princeton University Press) are available for purchase.

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