Reading for the Food: Art, Literature, and the Hungry Eye
Leonard Barkan (Princeton)
Eating and drinking have always accompanied the operations of “high culture”—that is, poetry, painting, philosophy, and music, not to mention the even loftier realms of theology and statecraft—but these gastronomic activities have not necessarily been accorded the prominence they deserve. Drawing from his book-in-progress on the subject, Professor Barkan will, as his projected title suggests, “Read for the Food” such seemingly disparate figures as Plato, Kant, Alberti, Vasari, Boucher, and the anonymous artistic geniuses who produced a late antique mosaic entitled “The Unswept Floor,” designed for a grand dining room and consisting of exquisitely depicted food garbage thrown on the floor after a feast.
Professor Barkan is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton, where he teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature along with appointments in the Departments of Art and Archaeology, English, and Classics. Among his books are The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism (Yale, 1986) and Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (Yale, 1999), which won prizes from the Modern Language Association, the College Art Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, Architectural Digest, and Phi Beta Kappa. He is also the winner of the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In recent years, he has published Michelangelo: A Life on Paper (Princeton, 2010), which treats the artist’s creative and inner life by considering his constant habit of writing words on his drawings, and Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures (Princeton, 2012), an essay about the intersecting worlds of artists and writers from Plato and Praxiteles to Shakespeare and Rembrandt.