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Kenyon’s Bottiger, O’Neill Lead ACM-Newberry Seminar on the History and Culture of Chicago Food

Published: February 18, 2020

Kenyon’s Bottiger, O’Neill Lead ACM-Newberry Seminar on the History and Culture of Chicago Food

"Guarding the corn." Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection (Newberry Library)

Kenyon College’s Patrick Bottiger and Rosemary O’Neill will co-direct the Associated Colleges of the Midwest’s 2020 Newberry Seminar, Food for Thought: A Thousand Years of Cooking and Eating in Illinois and Chicago.

The ACM and Newberry Library have a 55-year history of creative and effective partnership through the ACM-Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities. This one-of-a-kind program, launched in 1965, has educated more than 1,300 students, and continues to support up to 20 students per year to spend a term at the Newberry learning how to use original source materials for scholarly research.

“All of my most exciting discoveries as a researcher have been in some way archival discoveries, and I am excited to share that experience with students, as our course seeks to inspire them to make their own discoveries in the Newberry’s collections.” Rosemary O'Neill, Co-Director

This year’s Fall seminar, which is accepting applications until March 15, explores how the production, transportation, and preparation of food transformed urban landscapes in the Midwest since the time of the Indigenous city of Cahokia to contemporary Chicago. Students will make use of the Newberry Library’s original source materials to investigate Indigenous villages, maps of stockyards, new foods introduced during the 1893 World’s Fair, and recipe collections to look at food from the perspectives of economics, migration, immigration, culture, gender, and activism. Applications are open to college students at any four-year institution, including those from ACM campuses and in the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

“The fact that the Newberry Library contains archaeological records about ancient Indigenous Americans domesticating corn as well as vast records about Chicago’s meat-packing industry means that we can literally enter into the corn worlds of thirteenth-century Cahokia and nineteenth-century Chicago on the same day.” Patrick Bottiger, Co-Director

“Food, taste, diet, and cuisine are all born from deeply complex historical processes and relationships,” says Bottiger, associate professor of history. “Chicago’s history as the meat capital and granary of the world wasn’t simply a byproduct of industrious white men, but of much deeper historical developments that allowed such a commercial space to develop. Without Indigenous peoples domesticating corn, Chicago would never have happened.”

Patrick Bottiger

At Kenyon, Bottiger has taught classes on historical methods and a course that examined the cultural influence of corn for both Native and non-Native peoples. His other teaching interests include the American history survey, American Indian history, colonial and Revolutionary America, and comparative frontiers. His first book, "Borderland of Fear: Prophetstown, Vincennes, and the Invasion of the Miami Frontier," examines how ethnic factionalism and lies precipitated violence in the Ohio River Valley at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Rosemary O'Neill

 An associate professor of English, O’Neill focuses her research and teaching on the literature of later medieval England, with a particular interest in how religious practices shaped the poetry of writers such as Chaucer, Langland and the Pearl-Poet. At Kenyon, she teaches courses on medieval drama, medieval women writers and literature, and religion in medieval England. She is completing a book project which explores the medieval image of the individual conscience as an account book, arguing that discourses of salvation in medieval England were shaped by divergent traditions of financial accounting. 

“More than any other methodology, working with original manuscript and print materials makes you feel like you are touching the past,” says O’Neill. “All of my most exciting discoveries as a researcher have been in some way archival discoveries, and I am excited to share that experience with students, as our course seeks to inspire them to make their own discoveries in the Newberry’s collections.”

“The fact that the Newberry Library contains archaeological records about ancient Indigenous Americans domesticating corn as well as vast records about Chicago’s meat-packing industry means that we can literally enter into the corn worlds of thirteenth-century Cahokia and nineteenth-century Chicago on the same day,” Bottiger adds.

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