Countertextual Ecologies: Gastropoetics

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Fall 2017
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

feminist theory, consciousness studies

The relationship between nature and history is complex, so much so that the space between nature and the human, being and language, may not even be measurable. Yet the environmental imperatives of our moment—including the need to cultivate a tolerance if not an appreciation for complexity itself—are the decisive ones. In this program, we will think through questions of environmental consciousness and its discontents from the points of view of political ecology, gastropoetics, eco-poetics, and eco-music. How does immersion in complex music prepare us to recognize the complexities of an ecosystem? Does the deliciousness of a fine organic, single origin chocolate correspond to the tropical ecosystem of the country of origin, the evolutionary development of mammalian taste receptors, or the cultivated aesthetic of the chocolatier? Is the poem mimetic of nature, or a function of it? How could such a seemingly noble enterprise as 'environmentalism' or 'protecting nature' be problematic? How have powerful environmental imaginaries and narratives served to dangerously simplify how environmental problems and their solutions are conceptualized? Ours will be a multifaculty, multidisciplinary approach to interdisciplinary community-based learning. While activities will include shared lectures and readings, half of program work will take place in faculty-specific tracks.

Gastropoetics with Sarah Williams will explore taste, its pretension and its denigration, as the sense most touched by categorical distinctions like mind/body, high/low, self/other, culture/nature, soul/soil, free/enslaved, speech/food.  Although sensual pleasure's capacity to overwhelm communicative value has been considered a crime in various times and places, we'll deliberately explore “eating words” and the powers of taste’s orality--say of a mere swelling fruit--when well savored through mouth and/as mind. Texts may include Tender Buttons (Gertrude Stein), Trimmings (Harryette Mullen), The Book of Salt (Monique Truong), Food, Poetry, and Aesthetics of Consumption (Michael Delville), Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches (A. Breeze Harper), and selections from Heide Hatry: Not a Rose as well as Gastronomica. Students should plan for track field trips to the Culinary Breeding Network’s Variety Showcase (10.2.17) and the Northwest Chocolate Festival (11.11.17).


This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: aesthetics, ecology, environmental studies, geography, literature, music, philosophy, political economy, sustainability studies, and writing

Online learning:
  • Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.

$270 for entrance fees, supplies, and an overnight field trip.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 9:30am (Com 110)

2017-04-18Fee increased (from $70 to $270).