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The Metamorphoses of FatA History of Obesity$
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Georges Vigarello

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159760

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159760.001.0001

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The Prestige of the Big Person

The Prestige of the Big Person

(p.3) 1. The Prestige of the Big Person
The Metamorphoses of Fat

Georges Vigarello

, C. Jon Delogu
Columbia University Press

This chapter explores the prestige associated with “bigness” in the Middle Ages. The vicious cycle of hunger, severe restrictions, and food shortages stemming from poor degraded soils, inadequate storage, slow and difficult transportation networks, and vulnerability to inclement weather all contributed to raising the accumulation of calories into an ideal. The collective imagination dreamt of accumulation. Health meant a full stomach and vigor was represented in the compact heft of flesh. Bigness, however, could also become excessive that it is perceived as deformed, the ultimate physical disgrace. There is no precise measure of this threshold, no definition, just the allusion hardly ever discussed in twelfth-century Latin chronicles that distinguish pinguis (“big”) and praepinguis (“very big”).

Keywords:   fat, fat people, Middle Ages, big people, fatness, bigness, health, vigor

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