Virtual Event: Leonard Barkan at NYUThe Hungry Eye


Feast and Famine: Leonard Barkan presents The Hungry Eye


12:00pm-1:30pm ET



Hosted by the Steinhardt Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and in conversation with Professor Fabio Parasecoli, Leonard Barkan presents his new book, The Hungry Eye: Eating, Drinking, and European Culture from Rome to the Renaissance

Eating and drinking can be aesthetic experiences as well as sensory ones. The Hungry Eye takes readers from antiquity to the Renaissance to explore the central role of food and drink in literature, art, philosophy, religion, and statecraft.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Leonard Barkan provides an illuminating meditation on how culture finds expression in what we eat and drink. Plato’s Symposium is a timeless philosophical text, one that also describes a drinking party. Salome performed her dance at a banquet where the head of John the Baptist was presented on a platter. Barkan looks at ancient mosaics, Dutch still life, and Venetian Last Suppers. He describes how ancient Rome was a paradise of culinary obsessives, and explains what it meant for the Israelites to dine on manna. He discusses the surprising relationship between Renaissance perspective and dinner parties, and sheds new light on the moment when the risen Christ appears to his disciples hungry for a piece of broiled fish. Readers will browse the pages of the Deipnosophistae—an ancient Greek work in sixteen volumes about a single meal, complete with menus—and gain epicurean insights into such figures as Rabelais and Shakespeare, Leonardo and Vermeer.

A book for anyone who relishes the pleasures of the table, The Hungry Eye is an erudite and uniquely personal look at all the glorious ways that food and drink have transfigured Western arts and high culture. 

About Leonard Barkan

Leonard 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. He has been a professor of English and of Art History at universities including Northwestern, Michigan, and NYU. Among his books are The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism and Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture, 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 the winner of the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his scholarly books in recent years are Michelangelo: A Life on Paper, 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, an essay about the intersecting worlds of artists and writers from Plato and Praxiteles to Shakespeare and Rembrandt. Moving beyond the areas of his official scholarly interests are books about two favorite European cities. In 2006 Farrar, Straus published Satyr Square: A Year, a Life in Rome, an account of art, literature, food, wine, Italy, and himself. Ten years later, under the imprint of the University of Chicago Press, he published Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First Century Companion. His latest published work, published by Princeton University Press in 2021, is entitled The Hungry Eye: Eating, Drinking, and the Culture of Europe from Rome to the Renaissance. Recently he completed Reading Shakespeare Reading Me, an exercise in literary criticism and in autobiography; it will be published by Fordham University Press in the Spring of 2021. He has been an actor and a director; he has also been a regular contributor to publications in both the U.S. and Italy on the subject of food and wine.

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