Historicizing Fat in Anglo-American Culture, edited by Elena Levy-Navarro, is the first collection of essays to offer a historical consideration of fat bodies in Anglophone culture. The interdisciplinary essays cover periods from the medieval to the contemporary, mapping out a new terrain for historical consideration. These essays question many of the commonplace assumptions that circulate around the category of fat: that fat exists as a natural and transhistorical category; that a premodern period existed which universally celebrated fat and knew no fatphobia; and that the thin, youthful body, as the presumptively beautiful and healthy one, should be the norm by which to judge other bodies.
The essays begin with a consideration of the interrelationship between the rise of weight-watching and the rise of the novel. The essays that follow consider such wide-ranging figures as the fat child’s body as a contested site in post-Blair U.K. and in Lord of the Flies; H. G. Wells; Wilkie Collins’s subversively performative Fosco; Ben Jonson; the voluptuous Lillian Russell; Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis; the opera diva; and the fat feminist activists of recent San Francisco. In developing their histories in a self-conscious way that addresses the pervasive fatphobia of the present-day Anglophone culture, Historicizing Fat suggests ways in which scholarship and criticism in the humanities can address, resist, and counteract the assumptions of late modern culture.