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Sarah Unruh ’12

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Spanish professor to present Bethel College faculty seminar

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Martha Peterka, associate professor of Spanish at Bethel College, will present "Kitchen Philosophies: Connections between the Culinary and Literary Arts" for the next Bethel College faculty seminar at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 5 in the college’s Administration Building Chapel in North Newton. Peterka’s seminar, based on her studies during a sabbatical from teaching last spring, will bring together the culinary and literary arts and the women writers and protagonists who choose to "cook with words."

For several years she had noticed kitchen and cooking references in Spanish and Latin American writing and had found numerous references to cooking as a metaphor for writing.

"Culinary references abound in contemporary Spanish and Latin American fiction, non-fiction and critical essay by women writers, but they are by no means a modern innovation," she wrote at the start of her sabbatical report.

The title for the seminar comes from a quote by the 17th century Mexican poet and essayist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. When Inquisitorial superiors wanted to deny Sor Juana access to her books, she cited some of the secrets of the physical world she had discovered while cooking. "Qué podemos saber las mujeres sino filosofías de cocina? (What can we women know but kitchen philosophies?)," Sor Juana wrote.

The word cocina that Sor Juana uses has a broader meaning than the English word kitchen, Peterka explains. It also indicates the act and art of cooking.

"One need not feel compelled to take sides in the feminist quarrel between the domestic or culinary self and the intellectual or literary self," Peterka says. "Their numerous connections allow one to move freely between the two. As art forms, both rely on creativity and imagination, the skill of mixing just the right ingredients to achieve the desired effect. Both allow their practitioners to discover the world and themselves."

Peterka has taught at Bethel College since 1995. She earned her doctoral degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The faculty seminar series at Bethel College provides a forum for faculty to present results of recent study. Admission is free and open to the public.

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