History

The intestinal labours of Paris

The city of Paris was born of a mineral wealth now found in the different layers of the modern city. Unlike its rival London, the French capital was built with material taken from what constitutes the hole-ridden foundations of the city. In fact, beneath the epidermis of Paris run all sorts of pipes and tunnels that are comparable to the ensemble of the circulatory, vascular, respiratory, digestive and nervous systems necessary for the life of any organism. The cemetery of the Saints Innocents had for more than ten centuries received the dead from twenty-two Parisian parishes, the corpses from the morgue and the numerous dead from the Hôtel-Dieu. While the Saints Innocents was the first cemetery from which the remains were transferred to the ossuary at La Tombe-Issoire, between December 1785 and 1814 seventeen further cemeteries took the same steps.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

John Cleland's notoriety depends on his sexually explicit Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, a work which stimulates and celebrates the satisfaction of carnal appetites through a series of erotic encounters. However unconvincing Woman of Pleasure's 'tail-piece of morality', its paradigm of healing surfeit recurs in Cleland's Memoirs of a Coxcomb a companion piece to his infamous novel. Cleland's evocation of the low-life world of London shows the contradictory interface between desire, the aspirational and self-legitimating discourse of taste and the self-incriminating emotion of disgust. Both Cleland's dietetic writings and his fiction ostensibly lambast prodigal or voracious appetite, and counsel the conventional wisdom of control. Sir William Delamour, the eponymous 'coxcomb' or 'vain, superficial man' of Cleland's novel, has few depths, apart from the instinctive stirrings of appetite. Though a self-styled 'coxcomb' or 'vain, superficial man', Sir William is not constitutionally effeminate.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

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 century.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
The readers’ digest

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 'commonwealth'.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
Eighteenth-century satirical prints

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.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

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.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
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Entrails and digestion in the eighteenth century

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.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
Lichtenberg’s excretory vision of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress

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 of transposition.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
Treatises on farting

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.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
Variations on the abdomen in Marivaux’s L’Homère travesti and Le Télémaque travesti

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.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century