Fasting Girls: Then and Now
Lecture by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Given at Cornell University, on February 16, 2012
Why do we hear about – and see – so much anorexia nervosa these days? Once a medical curiosity of only anecdotal significance, the disorder may now afflict as many as one million young women a year in the United States alone. Joan Brumberg provided the first coherent interpretation of the historical roots of this enigmatic disease – while allowing for the role of individual biology and culture. In the process, she explored the cultural meaning of appetite in women’s lives from medieval ascetics to 21st century adolescents. She suggests that the burgeoning incidence of the disease in the last thirty years is due to complex transitions in the realm of sexuality and family life as well as with food, eating, exercise, and the body.