The eighteenth century witnessed a discernible shift towards explaining
bodily functions with scientific, in addition to theological, methods of
investigation. Eighteenth-century pathological anatomy had gleaned some
insights into the dead stomach. In the eighteenth century, philosophers and
scientists mostly dethroned the stomach from its prime position as the
'seat of the soul' as they gradually came to agree upon
consciousness and imagination as residing in the brain, not the belly. In
the long eighteenth century, ideas on digestion shifted dramatically.
Throughout the period, the stomach was understood in various ways; as guided
by mechanical, chemical and nervous forces and as intimately connected to a
plethora of body parts. The corporeal dangers of the stomach had never
seemed as evident as they had become by the end of the long eighteenth
Eighteenth-century boxes and books are material proof that printers'
waste and newspapers were a generous source of waste paper.
Eighteenth-century women's writing appears, like waste paper, to be a
tenuous object. More professional collectors were acutely aware of the
consumption of waste paper taking place in the shops. This chapter examines
the digestion of paper in the period from two angles. The trade and
practices related to the sale and disposal of waste paper in England and
France can help trace the varying fates of paper once it has been read. The
chapter highlights a most corporeal plight: that of hygienic paper, where
expression and excrement meet. Paper evidences the movement of commerce in
society, the rumblings of its appetites, the contradictory processes of its
digestive system, and the passing of matter through the huge body of the
In this chapter, the author examines what was at stake in the signification
of the stomach through two opposing aesthetic models: the 'beau
idéal' and the grotesquery of caricature. She interrogates the
significance of excess, outrage and intemperance in comical representations
of the belly, by reading them in light of both aesthetic norms and medical
discourses. The meaning of bodily health was particularly important during
the eighteenth century, a period when authors paid close attention to the
healthy body and medical pedagogy. The protuberant belly was often a central
feature of satirical prints, where it carried social or political weight or
expressed ideological tensions. Caricaturists used the contours of the
stomach to evoke contemporary political tensions and tell the story of the
shifting seats of power and wealth. To the bodily taxonomies was added a new
conception of adiposity, which now became a pathology.
This chapter aims to analyse the faces of the intestinal workings of Paris.
The entrails of Paris, and the work of the entrails within Paris, became an
object of general concern. Paris became the leading source of saltpetre in
Europe during the last third of the eighteenth century. In Paris the
mephitis of the cemetery of the Saints Innocents, which had long been
notorious, 'was complicated by miasmas or by a sort of cadaverous and
genuinely poisonous gas, whose principal effect is on the nervous
system'. Several master catgut-makers who specialised in strings for
musical instruments were working in Paris around 1770. In 1775, a family
from Barcelona settled in Paris and London to tap the gut market on a large
scale. Once an item of low economic value, gut then became a source of
substantial profit for tripe-merchants.
Rebecca Anne Barr, Sylvie Kleiman-Lafon and Sophie Vasset
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the
subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the metaphorical and
symbolic connections between the entrails of the body and the bowels of the
city or the labyrinthine tunnels of the mine. It uncovers a seemingly
paradoxical scatological pleasure in eighteenth-century drama. The book
focuses on Paris to analyse the fundamental connection between the bowels of
city and the entrails of the body. It also focuses on drawings, engravings
and caricatures which used the bowels, viscera and entrails to articulate
political protest, Revolutionary tensions and subversion through
scatological aesthetics, or to expose those invisible organs. The book
explores human digestion and explains the ways in which the role of the
stomach and of the workings of the inner body became pivotal to
understanding larger patterns of interrelationship between the organs.
Lichtenberg’s excretory vision of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg identifies the paper as an
'advertisement' for anodyne necklaces, a medical panacea of the
time. This chapter provides a brief introduction to Lichtenberg, his
commentaries of William Hogarth and A Harlot's Progress.
Lichtenberg suggests that he has interpreted the images with what he calls,
in a laconic notebook entry, 'the hermeneutics of hypochondria'.
The chamber pots and enemas that he finds in the images come to be amusing
and self-reflective metaphors for the dangers of interpretive excess. The
significance of the excretory accoutrements that Lichtenberg projects into
Hogarth's prints is that they, like the Umschrift on the
advertisement for anodyne necklaces, become allegories for his hermeneutic
method. In fact, they become allegorical for the very techniques that
conceal and reveal them: chamber pots represent Lichtenberg's
structural readings of the prints; and enemas stand for his Cynic principle
Pierre-Thomas-Nicholas Hurtaut offers a sort of stylistic analysis of the
overweening pomposity which epitomizes the scientific discourse of the
eighteenth century. Like Hurtaut, Claude-Francois-Xavier Mercier de
Compiègne satirises the pompous style, but the caricature is sometimes
pushed to the extreme and reveals a criticism of the Enlightenment which is
never clearly articulated. In Mercier and Hurtaut it is more than a simple
game of parody, acting instead as a pretext for mocking the pretensions of
the thinkers of their time: the moralists, philosophers and men of science.
Mercier's and Hurtaut's parodic texts formed part of the trend of
stigmatising the excesses of the Enlightenment. If the text is a caricature
of the scholarly treatises of the time, and a caricature of the
Enlightenment more generally, the repeated blasphemies remain ambiguous.
Variations on the abdomen in Marivaux’s L’Homère travesti and Le
Pierre de Marivaux's parodies follow the burlesque tradition, which is
particularly characterised by the traditional procedure of inversion. In
Le Télémaque travestiand L'Homère travesti, the use of
'potbelly' and 'paunch', instead of 'belly',
provides an example of this inversion. In Le Télémaque travestiand
L'Homère travesti, Marivaux makes no effort to hide the
embarrassment that the belly may visit upon its owner, and he relates these
digestive disturbances to material realities. The belly becomes the material
location of desire. By mentioning the digestive problems of certain
characters, Marivaux says things that the hypotexts never say, that they
have censured. He also restores the material bodies of the epic heroes. Far
removed from the image of the athletic bodies of the epic heroes and the
muscular abdomens of the ancient warriors, these nouns enable the creation
of paunchy, podgy heroes, that is to say, anti-heroes.
William Hogarth's approach to art and visual culture was both
spontaneous and complex, irreverent and respectful, democratic and critical.
One of the most striking characteristics of Hogarth's oeuvre is its
constant preoccupation with the representation of the forms of life. Rotund
bellies and double chins, emaciated grins and dishevelled hair, rouged
cheeks and spotty foreheads combine in his paintings and engravings as a
kind of grammar, and constitute one of his most expressive narrative
devices. Hogarth, as one of the most prominent skilled practitioners of the
genre, was very much aware of the staging involved. An example of the
importance of bodies in the search for the beauty of balance is provided by
Hogarth's famous pictures, O the Roast Beef of Old England, that
rather ferocious depiction of French Ancien Régime mediocrities.
Hogarth's main originality was his questioning of art's ambition
to 'correct', 'improve' or 'beautify'
In Catholic countries, the healing and fertilising caves, springs and stones
had been replaced by a variety of saints of the bowels, to whom their
devotees similarly prayed for restoration of their intestinal health.
Eighteenth-century parishioners suffering from various bellyaches still
fervently prayed for the intercession of the saints. The common denominator
is the mechanism of disembowelment used to tear out the entrails of the
earth and those of the saint. The etymology of the various forms of St
Agapit's name explains why he was endowed with the power to heal. The
devotion to the healing saints of the entrails therefore points to a dual
level of symbolic references: the belly of the martyr and the belly of the
earth. The life of St Mammès illustrates of this dual background.