Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body (Cambridge by Anna Krugovoy Silver

By Anna Krugovoy Silver

Anna Silver examines the methods nineteenth-century British writers used actual states of the feminine body--hunger, urge for food, fats and slenderness--in the construction of woman characters. She argues that anorexia nervosa, first clinically determined in 1873, serves as a paradigm for the cultural excellent of middle-class womanhood in Victorian Britain. Silver makes use of the works of a variety of writers (including Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and Lewis Carroll) to illustrate that mainstream types of middle-class Victorian womanhood percentage very important features with the ideals or behaviors of the anorexic girl.

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Extra resources for Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)

Sample text

Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue It has always appeared to me to be one of the greatest existing absurdities, that a whole community of people, differing in complexion, form, and feature, as widely as the same species can differ, should . . desire to wear precisely the same kind of dress. Sarah Stickney Ellis, Daughters of England  The remarkable similarity between Orbach’s and Ellis’s observations indicates that the wish to adapt to one predominant standard of beauty bridges nineteenth- and twentieth-century women’s experiences, and that contemporary complaints about the tyranny of slenderness have antecedents in the Victorian era.

Faces a very severe sanction indeed in a world dominated by men: the refusal of male patronage.  It is my hope that critics, by acknowledging this more complex view of the workings of power, will eventually put to rest the tiresome criticism that there exists no conspiracy to make women thin: of course there does not. Power is far too dispersed and anonymous for there to be any such organized plan; nevertheless, power relations as they stand in the twentieth century do make women suffer. Finally, in my conclusion, I draw similarities between Victorian and contemporary cultures, arguing that our own attitudes toward the body have changed remarkably little in the past century, and speculating about the kind of political work that literary and cultural criticism can accomplish in the effort to curtain anorexia nervosa as a pathology and as a paradigm of femininity.

The writer, who equates tight lacing with self-immolation and pagan sacrificial rites, implies that the practice of tight lacing is not only dangerous but immoral, perhaps because tight lacing drew attention to a woman’s erotic beauty. ” This intensification of anti-lacing rhetoric at first suggests an escalation of the practice, but the fashion for enormous skirts during the s actually renders such a hypothesis unlikely. The sensationalizing of critics’ language suggests, instead, that opponents may have been writing against an increasing acceptance of tight lacing.

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