Bodyweight and Shape in Early Modern Germany c. 1480-1620
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
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Fletcher, H. (2020). Bodyweight and Shape in Early Modern Germany c. 1480-1620 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.65995
This thesis explores understandings of bodily size and shape in early modern Germany. It considers what ‘fatness’ and ‘thinness’ signified culturally for contemporaries, and examines ideas about the ‘fashionable’ body in this period. It is often assumed that concern with bodyweight and shape is a modern phenomenon and that, if fatness was considered in past societies, it was merely understood as a sign of wealth and prosperity. This thesis demonstrates, however, that such concerns not only existed in sixteenth-century Germany, but that they were ever-present, being embedded in wider discussions concerning religion, gender, selfhood and society. Expansive size as a demonstration of power and riches did hold increasing significance in Germany in this period, yet this fashionable male silhouette developed out of the late fifteenth century ideal for slender and elongated bodies. This thesis traces this development from gothic slenderness, questioning how increasingly broad and bulky figures were achieved and why they became so popular in the German speaking regions across the sixteenth century. Whilst tracing this change over time, however, it also explores the nuances in understandings of bodyweight. Body size and shape could be made to matter in specific ways and in particular contexts, as part of cultural, embodied arguments about values and identities. This thesis attempts to unravel these complex and often contradictory understandings by approaching bodyweight from multiple perspectives, drawing together visual and material sources, with literary texts, autobiographical documents and prescriptive literature to show how ideas about bodyweight were integrated into various areas of life in early modern Germany. Ultimately, it argues that in order to understand how early modern Germans conceived of both themselves and the world, we cannot neglect the cultural significance held by understandings of bodyweight and shape.
Body, Early Modern, Germany, Material Culture, Reformation, Bodyweight, Fatness, Belly, Dürer, Self-Narratives, Household, Marriage, Dress, Materiality, Embodiment, Moderation, Food, Emotions, Selfhood
Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust. Murray Edwards College.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.65995
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