Register :: Log in :: Profile   


Anorexia Nervosa in Heian Japan?

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Samurai Archives Citadel Forum Index // Ancient Japan to Heian
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Glyre
Peasant
Peasant
Veteran Member



Joined: 23 Nov 2009
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:59 pm    Post subject: Anorexia Nervosa in Heian Japan? Reply with quote
I'm currently working through Doris Bargen's A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji, and one bit that stood out to me was her assertion that women sometimes "sought relief from extreme stress in anorexia nervosa." This claim is fairly intriguing, as I never would have expected such a disorder to be prevalent in Heian Japan. Sadly, she does not provide any evidence to support the idea, so I remain somewhat skeptical.

As I understand it anorexia nervosa is characterized by a desire to lose weight or to cultivate a certain appearance. I also understand it to be influenced by cultural norms to some degree, and so it seems unlikely that Heian Japan's ideal of beauty would lead to such issues with body image. Are there any primary sources that perhaps support Bargen's claim?

I suppose it's most likely that she had Oigimi in mind, but she is one isolated fictional character, and her choice to starve herself to death does not, to me, seem to indicate that such an act was at all common practice in Heian Japan.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Tatsunoshi
Miko no Kami
Miko no Kami
Forum Kanrei
Forum Kanrei
Multi-Year Benefactor
Multi-Year Benefactor



Joined: 07 May 2006
Posts: 4923
Location: 京都日本 Cincinnati, OH

PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
On the surface, I think her analysis is off the mark and seems to just want to create relevance with what is essentially a modern phenomenon. For most of human civilization, being thin and underfed wasn't a choice but a way of life-perhaps not for the wealthy group of courtiers in Genji, but with the number of robes a wealthy woman would wear, body shape wouldn't be a concern. From what I've read in books like 'Selling Songs and Smiles', overfed women would be considered attractive in the late Heian, so the 'diet at all costs' mentality of anorexia nervosa wouldn't be in vogue. And making a conscious decision to starve yourself to death or 'pine away' like Oigimi wouldn't be symptomatic of anorexia nervosa, which is largely a mental illness based on a poor self image combined with obsessive-compulsive disorder rather than a choice. Perhaps she's getting it mixed up with just plain 'anorexia', which is a simple lack of appetite that can be caused by a variety of factors-including a conscious decision to mount a 'hunger strike'.

At any rate, unless she can present evidence to the contrary, it seems a spurious claim, one which I've never run across in my readings on the Heian era.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
JLBadgley
Tsushima no Kami
Tsushima no Kami
Forum Kanrei
Forum Kanrei



Joined: 09 Apr 2007
Posts: 1617
Location: Washington, DC, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I concur that the "plump" look appears to be popular, based on Heian period art. Later art depicting the Heian period doesn't always conform, but later art also often covers the floors with tatami rather than leaving them bare wood, and so may likewise be using contemporary ideas of beauty.

As pointed out, we would need to see more evidence of her claims.

-Josh
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Samurai Archives Citadel Forum Index // Ancient Japan to Heian All times are GMT - 10 Hours
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Help the Samurai Archives




alexisRed v1.2 // Theme Created By: Andrew Charron // Samuraized By: Aaron Rister

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group