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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 Weight of Figures

The Weight of Figures

(p.111) 12. The Weight of Figures
The Metamorphoses of Fat

Georges Vigarello

, C. Jon Delogu
Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the increasing importance of figures in the early nineteenth century. Treatises on obesity had become common, although they continued to be strongly focused on extreme cases. The presentation of these cases, however, included something new—a flurry of numbers accompanied them as though suddenly all measurements were now considered useful. There was also an inexorable, subtle development of a new vision with regards to physical measurements as seen in literary descriptions. There was the allure of Balzac’s Grandet with his “five foot waist,” short and squat with calves twelve inches in circumference. There was also the unfortunate priest from Tours who, becoming painfully skinny, noticed one morning while putting on his “blue mottled stockings” that his calves had “lost over an inch in circumference.” Popular theatre productions in the 1830s began referring to bodyweight, thus revealing the notion’s penetration into broader segments of society.

Keywords:   fat, fat people, figures, nineteenth century, obesity, body measurements, physical measurements

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