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Introduction to Part Three

Introduction to Part Three

(p.129) Introduction to Part Three
Appetite and Its Discontents
Elizabeth A. Williams
University of Chicago Press

The Introduction to Part III (Chapters 7-9) explores the setting for the study of appetite from 1850-1900: the coming of “industrial food” amid the Second Industrial Revolution; state-sponsored efforts to enhance “bio-power”; and contests over gender roles that often focused on women’s putative frailties and perverse appetites. Dramatic changes also unfolded in the life sciences. The “physico-chemical” physiology promoted by Carl Ludwig shifted away from traditional views of the urge to eat as highly variable toward conceptions of quantifiable nutritional needs. Claude Bernard’s concept of the “internal milieu” encouraged investigation of regulatory processes by which organisms maintain internal states, including supplies of essential nutrients. Yet in the 1880s and 90s a challenge to determinism arose in the form of the “hunger-artist,” a type of showman whose public performance of starvation seemed to defy physiological laws. Influenced by Darwinism, physiological psychologists turned to the relation between psyche and soma even in ingestive and digestive processes long ignored. Physicians remained divided over the nature of appetitive ills. Ever more attentive to nerve science, they divided into “cerebralists,” who emphasized cerebro-nervous dysfunction, and “peripheralists,” who sought the causes of disordered eating in visceral pathology.

Keywords:   industrial food, gender roles, physico-chemical physiology, Carl Ludwig, Claude Bernard, internal milieu, regulatory processes, physiological psychology, cerebralists, peripheralists

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