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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

BUZZ: The Art and Design of Caffeine

Instructor(s): Mimi Hellman, Art History

What keeps you awake? Caffeinated substances have been consumed in many societies for hundreds of years, but the form and significance of the ‘buzz’ have varied greatly. In this seminar, students explore how coffee, tea, chocolate and Coca-Cola have been presented to consumers in different places and times, and how these modes of presentation have engaged diverse cultural values. We will focus on the visual and material aspects of caffeinated products: how they are packaged, advertised, prepared, and served; the environments in which they are sold and consumed; and their depiction in prints, paintings, and film. We will discover how these representational strategies both express and actively shape how people think about their bodies, their social identities, and the world in which they live. Our investigation will take us from coffeehouses in 17th-century Europe to the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony to the design of Godiva chocolate boxes to the marketing of Coca-Cola. Through a range of learning experiences, this course will wake you up to new ideas about the history and meaning of ‘buzz’.

Course Offered