Wendy Wall: Mobilizing Recipe Knowledge in 17th-Century England

Thursday, May 02, 2019, 7:00 pm
Folger Board Room
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Recipes are a highly functional genre: they communicate steps to transform one or more items into something new and useful. But what more can we learn about the past from recipes? How did recipes communicate this desire to transform and remake, and what might that reveal about early modern people?

Join scholar Wendy Wall for this free talk entitled "Mobilizing Recipe Knowledge in 17th-Century England." Wall is a visiting distinguished scholar with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

Dr. Wendy Wall is the Avalon Professor of the Humanities, Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, Director of the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and Professor of English at Northwestern University. Dr. Wall's work focuses on gender across a wide range of venues and subjects: authorship, the early modern stage, and within household and domestic spaces such as kitchens. Dr. Wall’s most recent book Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern Kitchen (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), looks to the genre of recipes in early modern England as a unique means by which women engaged in reading, writing, creating, and thinking about the broader world. She is also author of Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Cornell University Press, 1993).

“Operating at the interface between mind and matter,” Jayne Archer writes, “the recipe expressed the human desire to remodel the material world.” Seventeenth-century English recipes certainly provide a window not only onto food practices but also onto the myriad ways in which early modern people used recipe knowledge to consider central intellectual and social issues. How did recipes prompt consideration of how to transform “nature,” heal bodies, experiment with science, express ambition, preserve memories, create art, and explore cycles of life and death? How did literary writers mobilize recipe knowledge in ways that disclose the philosophical, emotional, and social work of the recipe world? Presenting case studies drawn from recipe writing, drama, and poetry allows us to see the startling ways that consumption, cannibalism, and matter itself became “food for thought” in seventeenth-century England.

Please contact Before ‘Farm to Table’ project coordinator Jonathan MacDonald (jmacdonald@folger.edu) with any questions.

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