The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Disorderly Eaters

Disorderly Eaters

Texts in Self-Empowerment Lillian R. Furst, and Peter W. Graham
  • Copyright: 1992
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 252 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-00815-8
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02559-9
“Clearly Disorderly Eaters is a book whose time has come. Clinicians and popularizers have been busy; it is time for literary scholars to have their day. How is eating functional in literature? Perhaps especially when it is dysfunctional?”
Disorderly Eaters is an excellent collection of fifteen essays on various aspects of eating disorders as these are manifest in literary works from a variety of lands and centuries. Because the information is so clearly and incisively expressed, much light is shed on contemporary eating disorders which are so prevalent in affluent societies.”

This book explores the various manifestations of eating disorders in literature, including cannibalism, the magic attributes of food, religiously motivated fasting, and children's eating problems, from the classical period to Toni Morrison, in American, British, and European texts.

The underlying, unifying theme is the role of eating choices as a means of self-empowerment. The texts discussed are different in genre (narrative, drama, epic and lyric poetry, and an autobiographical memoir), but they all reveal, in whatever setting, the individual's longing for autonomy of some kind. In many socially restrictive situations, eating patterns are the only choice available, especially for women. So disorderly eating becomes a tool for self-assertion as a rebellion against an unacceptable dominant ethos.

Disorderly Eaters reveals that creative writers were, by sheer observation, aware of the dynamics of eating disorders long before the medical community came to recognize and institutionalize the syndromes in the nineteenth century. The literary portrayals analyzed here could act as illuminating exemplars for those involved in the treatment of eating disorders and those who suffer from them, too.

Lilian R. Furst is Marcel Bataillon Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of several books.

Peter Graham is Professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and author of, most recently, Don Juan and Regency England (1990).

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