English R1A

Reading & Composition: Totality Chic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Spring 2012 Fan, Christopher Tzechung
MWF 10-11 note new room: 224 Wheeler

Book List

Carpenter, Novella: Farm City; Foer, Jonathan Safran: Eating Animals; Pollan, Michael: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Other Readings and Media

In addition to these books, a PDF course reader will also be provided.

We'll also be watching several films, which might include: Ocean's Thirteen, Fast Food Nation, Off the Grid with Les Stroud, Survivorman, Man vs. Wild, and/or Eat, Pray, Love.

A field trip (TBD) will also be in the works.


Where did the sandwich you ate for lunch come from? Where were the lettuce and tomatoes farmed? Who harvested them? Where did they come from, and why? What river or reservoir contributed the water? How about the electricity used -- how was that generated? And how were all the ingredients transported to the restaurant or cafe where you bought the sandwich? Where did the fuel come from? The truck? The driver? And what about the bread?

This is a familiar line of questioning these days. Similar questions could be asked about the clothes we wear, the screen we’re reading from -- even our college and career choices. In fact, being a responsible consumer or citizen now seems to require a deep understanding not just of our own decisions, but of how everything works together. While these kinds of questions have always been around, answering them has typically been the domain of technocrats and academics. It's somewhat surprising then that, today, it's fashionable to have answers to them.

Although this course will certainly be concerned with where your sandwich came from, it will be even more concerned with some character types that have become closely associated with various models of totality: the foodie, the thief and the activist. Let’s call them “masters of totality.” Our focus will be on the first, but we’ll sharpen our understanding of totality -- and its current cachet  -- with help from the other two. The central question we’ll be exploring, then, is how totality chic contributes to a distinctive genre in literature and film.

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