HIST 410: Week 13

Dietary Dangers and Critiques

Not many people haven’t been on some kind of diet. How can we really evaluate whether any diet could be useful? Is there a “right” diet that we just haven’t found? Have we known it all along?

This week is about EVALUATING dietary advice and dietary CRITIQUE. As you know from the course SLOs, the course is all about learning to think critically about dietary advice, using history to gain a broad perspective on it. So now we turn our attention from evaluating the rhetoric of dietary advice to evaluating the rhetoric of dietary critique.

This week brings our last LAST DAILY READING REFLECTIONS! (but a longer one on Friday)

Don’t forget about the BIG POINTS for this week.

Mon 11/09

  • Last week was difficult; let’s take a breath. NOTHING TO DO FOR TODAY. Monday’s assignment moves to Wednesday and Wednesday’s assignment goes away.

Wed 11/11

I frequently ask you to read between the lines of our readings to look beyond the specific dietary advice to see what else an author might be telling us. We’ve done that mostly with older diet texts to see how they tell us something about diet culture at the time it was written. Today (and Friday) we’re reading a few relatively recent articles about contemporary fad diets, their appeal, and the scientific agreement/disagreement about their efficacy.

I think these are great articles (we read a lot of not great articles for various reasons in this class; it’s nice to get some actually nice ones, too) for many reasons. For one, each helps readers think more critically about a particular diet and the rationale behind it. But perhaps more importantly, they also give us some insightful ways about how our opinions about diets come to be formed. That’s what I encourage you to focus on—what can these tell us about dieting IN GENERAL?

At this point in the course we start to focus less on learning new stuff about diet and more on APPLYING how we’ve been learning to think about diet to various articles—stuff I think is representative in different ways of stuff we read all the time.

  • Michael Specter, Against the Grain (New Yorker, October 27, 2014). If you can only see the first few paragraphs and can’t figure out what’s going on, I’ve put this article in Zotero as well.

  • James Hamblin, Lectins Could Become the Next Gluten, (The Atlantic April 24, 2017).

Fri 11/13

I hope it’s no surprise for me to say that one of the main goals of this course is to sharpen your critical faculties regarding dietary advice, and frankly everything. This article is a mostly fun read but highly problematic in its rather superficial analysis, which makes it highly representative of stuff we see everyday. That also means it’s perfect for us to take a look at and probe a bit deeper.

Especially compared to Wednesday’s readings, this article isn’t very good, and that is PRECISELY why we’re reading it—so that we can EXPLAIN HOW it misses the mark. So unlike most readings in the course, it’s not something to learn from but something to facilitate a critical analysis exercise.