Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, the inaugural project of the Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research, will use the pervasiveness of food in everyday life as a window into early modern culture. Food, then as now, is a basic human need. It also has a history and is a gateway to understanding society and culture. In the course of this project, we will investigate big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics, and imagination. Such issues as the unevenness of food supply, the development and spread of tastes with their darker supply sides of enslaved labor, and the socially cohesive rituals of eating together will be explored. With fresh understandings of a pre-industrial world, this project also gives us purchase on some post-industrial assumptions, aspirations, and challenges encapsulated in any idea of recovering simpler, local, and sustainable food chains.
Three co-directors are orchestrating the inaugural project’s agendas and activities. They include David Goldstein, associate professor of English at York University in Canada; Amanda Herbert, assistant director for fellowships in the Folger Institute; and Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts at the Folger. Before Farm to Table will mine rich and underexplored collections at the Folger; it will highlight new voices and genres from the past; it will create a hub in a network of scholarly projects; it will advance the maturation of scholarly discussion and debates in the field; and it will contribute to social and cultural histories as well as forge new grounds for meaningful conversations with experts from outside the humanities. Within in the Folger, Before Farm to Table will spark new conversations with our audiences, from young to old.
Before Farm to Table Co-Directors
David B. Goldstein is a critic, poet, and food writer, and an Associate Professor at York University in Toronto. He holds an MA in Writing from The Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in English from Stanford University. He is co-director of the multi-year, $1.5 million research project, Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. His first monograph, Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge, 2013), shared the 2014 biennial Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award. He has also published two books of poetry and has co-edited two essay collections, Culinary Shakespeare with Amy Tigner (Duquesne, 2016,) and Shakespeare and Hospitality with Julia Lupton (Routledge, 2016). His essays on early modern literature, Emmanuel Levinas, food studies, ecology, and contemporary poetry have appeared in Studies in English Literature, Shakespeare Studies, Gastronomica, and numerous other journals and collections. He is currently at work on a monograph, With Whom We Eat: Literature and Commensality, for which he received a multi-year research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and a collection of poetry about space physics and fatherhood, funded by the Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils.
Amanda E. Herbert is Assistant Director at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she runs the Fellowships Program. She holds the MA and PhD degrees in History from The Johns Hopkins University. She is co-editor of The Recipes Project (recipes.hypotheses.org) and co-director of the multi-year, $1.5 million research project, Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her first book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (Yale, 2014) received the Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She is a historian of the body: gender and sexuality, medicine and health, athleticism and fitness, food and drink. She is currently at work on her second book, Spa: Faith, Public Health, and Medicine in the British Atlantic, which seeks to refigure and reclaim the early modern urban spa, not just as a place of elite sociability, but as an important site for the study of the history of public health.
Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She received an MLIS from UCLA and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is currently principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online (emmo.folger.edu), co-principal investigator of Shakespeare’s World (shakespearesworld.org), curator of Shakespeare Documented (shakespearedocumented.org) and is co-director of the multi-year, $1.5 million research project Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her first book, Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2000) received the Josephine Roberts Scholarly Edition Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She has written widely on the intersections between manuscript and print culture in early modern England, and also edited The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (2007), The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary (2007), and, with Alan Stewart, Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004). Her most recent research explores early modern filing systems and the social circulation of writing paper and blank books.
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