Fat Bodies in the Early Modern World
28 to 30 June 2022
Frankfurt am Main, Edinburgh and online
In the emerging field of Fat Studies, historical overviews about the perception and representation of fat and dieting tend to focus on the 19th and 21st centuries. An early exception was Elena Levy-Navarro’s The culture of obesity in early and late modernity (2008) which sought to situate the beginnings of ‘modern’ fat hatred in the early modern period. Inspired by Mikhail Bakthin and Norbert Elias, Levy-Navarro argued that the premodern period was a ‘time before fat’, as she suggested it was only with the development of a ‘civilized elite’ that the individualized, self-contained body could be ‘violated by fat flesh’.
More recent studies, however, such as Georges Vigarello’s Les métamorphoses du gras. Histoire de l’obésité du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle (2010) or Christopher E. Forth’s Fat. A Cultural History of the Stuff of life (2019) have demonstrated that the slim silhouette could already be an ideal for European elites in the Medieval period and that the fat body could be viewed as socially inferior from Roman Antiquity onwards. Recent work by scholars such as Michael Stolberg and Maria-Carla Gadebusch Bondio too, has shown how physicians’ advice manuals advising how to avoid fatness were printed as early as the 1480s, and that the treatment of obesity became part of the university medical curriculum in the later sixteenth century.
This conference seeks to build on and amplify this work by investigating early modern fatness as both aesthetic judgment and social experience. Areas papers might investigate include:
● Where, when and under what conditions could a body be perceived as fat?
● What is the relationship between sociocultural norms and individual preferences?
● How did it feel to be fat in an era before the concept of ‘weight’ and the weighing scale became ubiquitous?
● How did concepts of fatness/thinness link with ideas about humoral balance, temperament and character?
● In an increasingly interconnected world how was fatness understood in terms of geohumoralism or xenophobia ?
● How is thinness and fatness discussed and appraised in a wide range of literary, historical and artistic contexts?
● What methods did people employ to create a fashionable physique - through, for example, structured clothing or diet in the broadest sense?
Please send us an abstract of up to 300 words, and a short CV or link to a personal website, by 15 January 2022. This conference will take place simultaneously in Frankfurt, Edinburgh and online in order to save on air travel and widen accessibility. For speakers who wish to travel to either conference hub, expenses will be reimbursed. Please email your proposal to all three organisers: Jill.Burke@ed.ac.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Organised by Jill Burke (University of Edinburgh), Holly Fletcher (University of Manchester), Christine Ott (Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt)
Fette Welten. Utopische und anti-utopische Diskurse über Essen und Körper in der Vormoderne (Frankreich, Italien)
Denkt man an „Essen“ und „Körper“ im Mittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit, so ist die Vorstellung von Schlaraffenland und Fastenzeit, Fest und Hunger, von karnevalesken Fress-Exzessen und kirchlich verordneter Kasteiung nicht weit. Der fette Schlaraffenland-König und die ausgemergelte Fastenzeit, die dicken Machthaber und das hungrige Volk reichen sich im Reigen der populären Stereotypen die Hand. Doch es ist Zeit, diese von Michail Bachtin, Piero Camporesi und Jacques Le Goff verbreiteten Dichotomien hinter sich zu lassen. Die textuellen Inszenierungen fetter Welten und fetter Körper in Texten zu den Themenkomplexen ‚Schlaraffenland‘ und ‚Karneval‘, in Schwänken, Novellen, Traktaten und Dialogen entziehen sich einfachen Zuordnungen zu Kategorien wie Hochkultur und Populärkultur, Disziplinierung und Subversion, Anti-Utopie und Utopie, klerikaler und säkularer Ordnung. Das vorliegende Projekt wird auf einer breiten Basis bekannter sowie noch gänzlich oder weitgehend unerschlossener Primärtexte die ‚fetten Welten‘ und ‚fetten Körper‘ der französischen und italienischen Vormoderne jenseits herkömmlicher archaisierender und popularisierender Denkmodelle analysieren.
Fat Worlds. Utopian and anti-utopian discourses on food and body in the premodern era (France, Italy)
Funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation). Funding period 2020-2023.
When thinking of ‘Food’ and ‘Body’ in the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern period, one easily encompasses the images of Cockaigne and Lent, feast and hunger, carnivalesque eating excesses and church-prescribed fasting. The fat King of Cockaigne and the gaunt Lent, opulent rulers and starving people go hand in hand amidst popular stereotypes. Yet the time has come to leave these widespread dichotomies behind, as they have been developed by Michail Bachtin, Piero Camporesi and Jacques Le Goff. The portrayals of fat worlds and fat bodies in texts dealing with ‘Cockaigne’ and ‘Carnival’, such as farces, novellas, treatises and dialogues, elude those simple categorisations of high culture and popular culture, disciplining and subversion, anti-utopia and utopia, clerical and secular order. Our project will analyse fat worlds and fat bodies in the French and Italian Early Modern period on the basis of a wide corpus of both renowned and partially investigated, or even absolutely unknown, primary sources, beyond traditional interpretative models, which often are archaising and popularising.