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"The Ooze Of Gluttony": Attitudes Towards Food, Eating, And Excess In The Middle Ages

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that medieval conceptions of gluttony present a world in which the state of one's soul is directly connected to the maintenance of one's proper physical boundaries and balance, a condition which extends to, and helps to maintain, the social body. An understanding of ideas about gluttony in the Middle Ages provides a historical context for recognizing how we perceive the societal effects of gluttony today. In Jacob's Well, for instance, various food practices are associated with venial and deadly sins. To enjoy one's food too much is a venial sin; to break a fast commanded by the church is a deadly sin. Thus, medieval attitudes towards food, eating, and excess focus primarily on the role of food in an individual's struggle to create balance between desire and necessity, which in turn helps to create and maintain a balanced, healthy community.

Keywords: deadly sin; eating; food practices; gluttony; healthy community; Middle Ages; social body; venial sin



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