Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

This book seeks to challenge the notion of the supremacy of the brain as the key organ of the Enlightenment. It is done by focusing on the workings of the bowels and viscera that so obsessed writers and thinkers during the long eighteenth-century. These inner organs and the digestive process acted as counterpoints to politeness and other modes of refined sociability, drawing attention to the deeper workings of the self. The book complicates the idea that discourses and representations of digestion and bowels are confined to so-called consumption culture of the long eighteenth century, in which dysfunctional bowels are categorised as a symptom of excess. It offers an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspective on entrails and digestion by addressing urban history, visual studies, literature, medical history, religious history, and material culture in England, France, and Germany. 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 then illustrates the materiality of digestion by focusing on its by-products and their satirical or epistemological manifestations. The book expounds further on the burlesque motif of the innards as it is used to subvert areas of more serious knowledge, from medical treatises to epic literature or visual representation. Finally, it 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.

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