Introduction: The Belly and Beyond

Body, Self, and Culture in Ancient and Modern Times
  • Ana Carden-Coyne
  • Christopher E. Forth


We live in a world obsessed with abdomens, where the “belly,” “tummy,” or “gut” are objects of vigilance and, quite frequently, sources of anxiety. If in modern Western societies post-Cartesian thought has often disqualified the body in favor of the mind, in everyday life the belly continues to bear considerable cultural weight. Embracing as it does much of the digestive system, physiologically the belly is the primary site of incorporation, where food is directly assimilated into the body, where it is literally made into flesh. This deceptively simple point is complicated by the many ways in which eating, digestion, and excretion have been understood, both as objects of medical and scientific knowledge as well as targets of personal bodily reform. After all, at the same time that it does the work of digestion, the belly is also considered the metaphorical location of appetite itself. Far from dying out, these concerns have persisted throughout the early modern period and well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have included along the way anxieties about proper chewing, constipation, nutrition, exercise, and weight loss.


Feminist Issue Early Modern Period Modern Western Society Greek World Crime Fiction 
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Copyright information

© Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Carden-Coyne
  • Christopher E. Forth

There are no affiliations available

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