A Guide to the GRE/Arts and Literature Passages

3.07 Art & Literature Passages

The GRE contains many passages which are commentaries or analyses of arts or literature. Pay attention to theories about the subject discussed.

Liber de Coquina is one of the oldest known cookbooks, dating back to approximately the 13th century, but even at its age, the mysteries surrounding the 5 book are a curiosity. The book seems to have been written by two authors, one French and one Italian, but neither the authors' names nor the date of publication are clear. While this may seem expected 10 for a book of its age, Apicius' De re coquinaria from approximately 500 as well as Viandier by Guillaume Tirel each contained its authors name. The anonymity of the work has led some to 15 believe that the authors had reason to conceal their identity, perhaps because the authors were female. It was considered improper for women to appear in public fields during the Middle Ages; even at the 20 time of Shakespeare, female roles in plays were usually played by men. Yet culinary trades were known to be common amongst women in the Middle Ages. 1. What is Liber de Coquina and how does it compare to similar things of its kind?

2. What does the author think may be the case about the authors of Liber de Coquina?

3. What reasons does the author state for this conclusion?

3.07 Art & Literature Passages

 Answers to Practice Questions

1. Liber de Coquina is a very old cookbook and is distinct from other very old cookbooks in that it is written by two anonymous authors.

2. The author thinks that the authors of the book may have been female.

3. The author's reasons for potential female authorship of Liber de Coquina are both the nature of medieval society - where it was shameful for women to have public professions - as well as the fact that culinary duties were often the prerogative of women in many contexts during the era.