american liter ary r ealism 44, 1 These Days of Large Things: The Culture of Size in America, 18651930. By Michael Tavel Clarke. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2007. 336 pp. Cloth, $65.00. In These Days of Large Things: The Culture of Size in America, 18651930, Michael Tavel Clarke examines the Progressive Era preoccupation with size. As Clarke argues with considerable evidence, largeness was widely interpreted in this period (and, indeed, in our own) to denote progress and advancement while smallness in turn signified degeneracy and unwholesomeness. This pervasive and enduring schema, Clarke shows, had its roots in American expansionism and imperialism, enterprises underwritten by the interlocking beliefs that bigger is better and that superiority must be physically manifest. As Clarke argues, the American body quickly became the foremost emblem of American nationalist might, and, as a result, social reformers, scientists, and physicians sought to engineer American bodily stature through physical fitness campaigns, social hygiene, and eugenics. Just as the vertiginous American white male body was celebrated as the apotheosis of progress, so the smaller body--particularly the female, immigrant, or nonwhite body--was habitually regarded as a "living fossil" and thus made an object of fascination and infantilization.
American Literary Realism – University of Illinois Press
Published: Sep 21, 2011
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