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Food and Performance

School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

TH327 - Food and Performance

Tutor: Dr Tim White (

Autumn - Spring - Summer Terms 2011/12
Seminars: Monday 1130-1330
Room: Millburn Studio

35% = Portfolio of 4 x 750 word assignments
30% = Seminar Presentation
35% = Practical Exam

Module Description: 
From necessity to pleasure, from subsistence to security, food is a constant in our lives, commandeering significant portions of our waking lives – gathering, preparing, ingesting, digesting, excreting - and annexing one-third of the planet’s land not covered in ice. We define ourselves by the food we eat, both physically (as Morgan Spurlock, Eleanor Antin and others attest) and culturally.

Commensality – the fellowship of the table – shares with performance the coming together of individuals to form a temporary group that consume and then depart. The negotiated status of performer and audience finds resonance with that between hosts and guests and an opportunity to reaffirm or challenge the rituals and etiquette by which they operate.

The tensions between creativity and domesticity, between adulation and exploitation are explored in relation to performances that acknowledge the breadth of circumstances in which we engage with food, culminating in an extended consideration of the theatricality of dining. Alongside reflection on the social and aesthetic aspects of food, the ethical and ecological cost of feeding and feasting is explored.

Learning Outcomes:

Subject Knowledge and Understanding

  • Show an understanding of the ways that food defines us as individuals and plays a key role in group formation.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the social, political and economic structures and religious and aesthetic values that accrete to the production and consumption of food.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the variety of performance interventions that engage with the activities of food preparation and consumption and the various ways in which food is used in performance.

Key Skills

  • Interrogate food events as sites for the performance of group identity
  • Undertake research tasks using appropriate research tools
  • Demonstrate an ability to summarise practices and locate them within wider contexts.
  • Work in conjunction with others to present an argument to others and respond to questions on their chosen area.
  • Collaborate as part of the larger group on a practical project involving good time-management, organisational skills, allocation of tasks and an awareness of the expectations of diners.

Cognitive Skills

  • Interrogate the points of contact between food and performance.
  • Critically analyse the performative aspects of food in a variety of settings, including the home, the restaurant and across media.
  • Collate, examine and utilise relevant primary and secondary source material

Subject Specific/Professional Skills

  • Describe, interepret and evaluate food events and practices both as theatrical texts and as performances
  • Draw upon an existing knowledge of theatre and performance studies as a means to explore the hospitality industry.
  • Embark on appropriate independent research
  • Demonstrate the ability to work independently, in a small group and as part of a large team.