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Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa Paperback – October 10, 2000
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"Full of fascinating cases, from medieval saints and Victorian spiritualists to contemporary college students and media celebrities."--Alison Lurie
"Brilliant--. A masterful blend of history and contemporary issues."--Journal of Social History
From the Inside Flap
Winner of four major awards, this updated edition of Joan Jacobs Brumberg's Fasting Girls, presents a history of women's food-refusal dating back as far as the sixteenth century. Here is a tableau of female self-denial: medieval martyrs who used starvation to demonstrate religious devotion, "wonders of science" whose families capitalized on their ability to survive on flower petals and air, silent screen stars whose strict "slimming" regimens inspired a generation. Here, too, is a fascinating look at how the cultural ramifications of the Industrial Revolution produced a disorder that continues to render privileged young women helpless. Incisive, compassionate, illuminating, Fasting Girls offers real understanding to victims and their families, clinicians, and all women who are interested in the origins and future of this complex, modern and characteristically female disease.
Top customer reviews
The author talks about how anorexic-like behavior has been recorded since the middle ages when girls would fast to prove religious devotion. At the time, people thought this "anorexia mirabilis" was a miracle that demonstrated that certain holy individuals could exist without earthly food, simply living on "spiritual nourishment" from God.
When it got to the 1800s, when society was embracing both religious and scientific approaches, people (especially those who were medically- or scientifically-minded) would send in professionals to observe the "fasting girls" around the clock to see if it were actually scientifically possible for them to exist without food!
Later on, as the societal shift became more medical, the focus turned to describing the condition more thoroughly and getting the girls to eat and regain weight. It was then being assumed that anorexia was related to hysteria or some nervous condition, and the term anorexia nervosa (among some other terms, such as hysterical anorexia) started being used. The author describes how at that time, fasting was in part a reflection of family dynamics and various aspects of middle class Victorian society.
After spending much time talking about anorexia in the Victorian era, the author spoke about the disorder after the turn of the century and how fashion innovations (e.g., ready-made dresses, higher hemlines), increased information about calories and nutrition, attitudes by female athletes and celebrities, and other factors that influenced the more modern version of anorexia nervosa.
Overall, I found this to be a fascinating book, and I learned a great deal from reading it. I offer this book my highest of recommendations for clinicians and interested laypeople as well.
Most recent customer reviews
I had previously read a book like it called "From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls" which was written in the manner of a stuffy academic.Read more