On High Culture and Foot Culture in Early Modern Europe von Leonard Barkan

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Why has taste, despite its solid presence in the arts, been relegated to the lower rungs of the aesthetic hierarchy?

De gustibus non est disputatum advises the famed Latin maxim for not arguing over taste. It’s something subjective, the logic goes, and arriving at universals for aesthetic preference is a task better suited to philosophers – like Immanuel Kant, who contemptuously derided the use of the word “taste” to refer to that highest of human judgments. Leonard Barkan, an Ellen Maria Gorrissen fellow at the Academy, subtly traced the cultural history of “taste” – and food in art and literature – from the Renaissance forward, paying particularly close attention to how taste has so often been relegated by philosophers to the lower realms of human undertaking. “Food is the most childlike of pleasures,” croaked Socrates in the Georgias, a work that, against its own better advice, mentions food, drink, and dining dozens of times.

But what has taste and food actually been for artists and writers who have taken to representing them in their works, asks Barkan, a professor of art history and comparative literature at Princeton University. Artists of the Renaissance, Barkan's particular field of expertise, as well as those of the Rococo, lend countless images of wine, grapes, bread, cheese, and olives to their representations of the classical world. Food and wine in the history of art and literature, Barkan observes, have been elements front and center: Michelangelo, for one, jotted down recipes and requested special cheeses and wines delivered to his studio – all the while boasting of his meager sustenance of bread crusts. The apple plays the central role in the Adam and Eve tale; Proust’s madeleines spur a voluminous output of memory; and, not least, the Last Supper, that iconic theme seen revisited by countless artists and imaginations. “Food serves as an instrument,” Barkan notes, “leading human actors on their way to something else.”

For all of the derogatory words heaped upon the taste and those morsels that sate is desires, then, food and cooking have played the sidelined role to the central narratives of cultural history, which, in the hands of philosophers, have had to do with the universal, abstract, and disembodied. Barkan aims to remake this situation with his current work on wine, food, Rome, and his own gustatory adventures – to put the subject of taste and food back on the table.

Dozent des Vortrages On High Culture and Foot Culture in Early Modern Europe

 Leonard Barkan

Leonard Barkan

Leonard Barkan ist Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaften an der Princeton University. An den Universitäten North Western, Michigan und New York war er unter anderem Professor für Englisch und Kunstgeschichte. Zu seinen veröffentlichten Büchern gehören zum Beispiel The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism oder Transuming Passion: Ganymede and the Erotics of Humanism. Mit seinem Werk Unearthing the Past: Archeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture gewann er die Preise der Modern Language Association, der College Art Association der American Comparative Literature Association und viele andere.

Er ist ebenfalls als Schauspieler und Regisseur tätig und verfasst Artikel zum Thema Essen und Wein. 2010 veröffentlichte er Michelangel: a life on paper. Aktuell arbeitet er an einem Buch über die Beziehungen zwischen der Essenskultur und Hochkultur von der Antike bis zur Renaissance und an einem nicht-wissenschaftlichen Buch über seine Liebe zur Stadt Berlin.


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