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Cover for Fat


A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life

Christopher E. Forth


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/5/2014)
Paperback (6/5/2014)


Fat. Such a little word evokes big responses. While "fat" describes the size and shape of bodies—their appearance—our negative reactions to corpulence also depend on something tangible and tactile. As this book argues, there is more to fat than meets the eye. Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life offers reflections on how fat has been perceived and imagined in the West since antiquity. Featuring fascinating historical accounts as well as philosophical, religious, and cultural analyses—including discussions of status, gender, and race—the book digs deep into the past for the roots of our current notions and prejudices. Two central themes emerge: how we have perceived and imagined corpulent bodies over the centuries, and how fat—as a substance as well as a description of body size—has been associated with vitality and fertility as well as perceptions of animality. By exploring the complex ways in which fat, fatness, and fattening have been perceived over time, this book provides rich insights into the stuff our stereotypes are made of.

Praise For Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life

Fat is a thoroughly researched and capable book . . . . A timely reminder of the cycles of our organic existence in the face of ever greater outer forces.”
— History Today

Fat is the definitive overview of what bodily excess means and has meant in Western society. . . . Forth’s dramatic account of how we got to this point, written with grace and a touch of irony, points out that no other bodily state, not sexual orientation, not addiction, not mental illness, remains so totally demonized as the world of the XXXXL. A vital and critical addition to the cultural history of the body by a master of the genre.”
— Sander Gilman, author of "Fat: The Biography"

"Forth is a myth buster. This is the book to read if you are wondering why people in the West are so obsessed with fat."
— Joanna Bourke, author of "The Story of Pain" and "What It Means to Be Human"

"This is a distinctive and ambitious analysis, tracing body imagery from the classical period to the present and offering a striking argument about the relevance of past standards to contemporary debates. The book also offers a strong case for the interconnections between historical and scientific assessments."
— Peter N. Stearns, author of "Fat History"

Reaktion Books, 9781789140620, 352pp.

Publication Date: June 15, 2019

About the Author

Christopher E. Forth is the Dean’s Professor of Humanities and professor of history at the University of Kansas. He is the author of several books, including The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood and Masculinity in the Modern West.