Synopses & Reviews
With waiflike models dominating the advertising world and a new wave of feminists waging war on societal pressure to be thin, eating disorders have, it seems, attained the status of a modern crisis. Although anorexia nervosa was not identified as such until the nineteenth century, the compulsion to be thin at the price of starvation has a long history in western society. Long before talk shows took over the air waves and Cosmopolitan hit the stands, obsession with body and fasting rituals plagued girls and women. But is anorexia as we know it today new?
In an engaging and thorough account of the history of self starvation in the western world, Walter Vandereycken and Ron Van Deth explore this question. Drawing on a myriad of intriguing examples, the authors show how self-inflicted starvation has changed its tone over the centuries and is inextricably enmeshed in socio-cultural contexts.
Consider how drastically the meaning of fasting has mutated in the Christian western world: that in the twelfth century when divine miracles were accepted realities, an emaciated girl would have been seen as holy and touched by God. That same girl would have been considered possessed and cursed by Satan in the sixteenth century when popular belief in witches was on the rise. From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls traces the history of starvation from its religious roots, bound up in rigid asceticism, to its economic ties, in the form of living skeletons like shadow Harry who toured freak shows displaying his protruding ribs for money, to the Victorian era, where modern sexual and gender stereotypes find their origin.
The book is the result of exhaustive research, covering Europe and the United States and spanning the early centuries of Christianity to the present day. From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls will interest readers in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, women's studies, religious and social history, and cultural studies.
"A valuable addition to attempts to elucidate a tragic problem...A well-researched work that shows how history and psychiatry may be allies." -Nature,
Jayadeva's Gitagov'nda is a lyrical account of the illicit springtime love affair of Krishna and Radha, a god and goddess manifesting on earth as a cowherd and milkmaid for the sake of relishing the sweet miseries and rapturous delights of erotic love. The narrative framing their bucolic songs was composed under royal patronage in northeastern India in the twelfth century. It was to be performed for connoisseurs of poetry and the erotic arts, for aesthetes and voluptuaries who, while sensually engaged, were at the same time devoted to Krishna as Lord of the Universe. The text at once celebrates the vicissitudes of carnal love and the transports of religious devotion, merging and reconciling those realms of emotion and experience. Erotic and religious sensibilities serve, and are served by, the pleasures of poetry. In the centuries following its composition, the courtly text became a vastly popular inspirational hymnal. Jayadeva's songs continue to be sung throughout India in fervent devotional adoration of Krishna.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -287) and index.
About the Author
Walter Vandereycken is Professor of Psychiatry at the Psychology Institute at Catholic University in Lwen, Belgium. He is also Clinical Director of the Center for Behavior Therapy at the Alexanien Psychiatric Hospital in Tienen, Belgium.