Faculty Publications

Title

"The ooze of gluttony": Attitudes towards food, eating, and excess in the middle ages

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions

Volume

123

First Page

57

Last Page

70

Abstract

An historical approach to the meanings of the fat body cannot ignore gluttony, since the glutton is often characterized as the excessive eater, inevitably corpulent. This contemporary western view of the vice of gluttony is challenged by the puzzling notion found throughout the Middle Ages that Adam and Eve, with their first bites of forbidden fruit, commit the sin of gluttony. How can ingesting so little food be gluttonous? Working with Mary Douglas's notion that the way a culture thinks about food reflects and reveals the structures of its "whole experience of life" ("Culture and Food," 78), I argue that medieval conceptions of gluttony present a world in which the state of one's soul is directly connected to the maintenance of one's proper physical boundaries and balance, a condition which extends to, and helps to maintain, the social body.

Original Publication Date

1-1-2007

DOI of published version

10.1163/ej.9789004157859.i-312.18

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